China formally entered its first aircraft carrier into service on Tuesday, underscoring its ambitions to be a leading Asian naval power, although the ship is not expected to carry a full complement of planes or be ready for combat for some time.
The defence ministry's announcement had been long expected and was not directly linked to current tensions with Japan over a disputed group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.In a brief notice on its website, the ministry said the carrier's commissioning significantly boosted the navy's combat capabilities and its ability to cooperate in responding to natural disasters and other non-traditional threats.
"It has important significance in effectively safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development benefits, and advancing world peace and common development," the statement said.
China had partly justified the launching of a carrier by pointing out that it alone among the five permanent UNSC members had no such craft. That had been particularly glaring given the constant presence in Asia of carriers operated by the US Navy, which maintains 11 worldwide.