China acknowledges first aircraft carrier

June 8, 2011 at 1:06 PM
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DALIAN, China, June 8 (UPI) -- People's Liberation Army General Staff head Gen. Chen Bingde has confirmed that the Chinese navy is working on its first aircraft carrier.

The vessel is a refurnished Soviet-era carrier, the 990-foot-long Admiral Kuznetsov-class Varyag, which China purchased as a hulk from Ukraine in 1998, the Global Post reported Wednesday.

To move the vessel from the Black Sea through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits, which are controlled by Turkey under the 1936 Montreux Convention that prohibits passage of aircraft carriers, Beijing insisted that the engineless ship was destined to become an offshore casino in Macau.

Chen said only that the aircraft carrier "is being built but it has not been completed."

Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, assistant chief of the PLA's general staff, was more expansive, stating that even after the carrier became operational it would "definitely not sail to other countries' territorial waters. All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great nation."

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