BEIJING, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- China has confirmed it is building a homegrown aircraft carrier, confirming speculations regarding the country's military build-up.
The Defense Ministry's confirmation at a press conference comes just days after officials with the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy released a video showcasing their aircraft carrier capabilities, with fighter pilots launching their aircraft from the Liaoning, currently China's only carrier.
The new aircraft carrier, "independently designed in China," is currently under construction in the northeastern port of Dalian. The design will be based on the research and experimentation done onboard the Liaoning, formerly a Soviet Navy vessel the Chinese government purchased from Ukraine in 1998. Liaoning has only been used for training operations, according to Chinese officials.
"It has a conventional power plant with a displacement of 50,000 tons," Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, confirmed. "It will carry J-15 fighter jets and other ship-based aircraft, and the fixed-wing aircraft on-board will adopt ski-jump take-off mode. Various types of equipment will be installed to meet the needs of fulfilling its missions."
The U.S. Department of Defense has been keeping track of China's aircraft carrier program. The Pentagon published a report on Chinese military developments in early 2015, suggesting it is likely the country will continue to build and develop more carriers.
"China also continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years," the report read.
China's aircraft carrier program supports the country's military expansion into the South China Sea, which includes territories disputed by five other countries. The People's Liberation Army recently conducted large-scale training exercises in the region, which involved submarines and fighter jets.
The South China Sea is one of the busiest maritime trade routes in the world.