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China announces its first aircraft carrier

China announces its first aircraft carrier
The former Soviet carrier Varyag, which China has purchased from the Ukraine, and is allegedly only for training purposes. Photo via the U.S. Navy.

BEIJING, July 27 (UPI) -- China's Defense Ministry says it will refit and recommission an imported aircraft carrier purchased from Ukraine for "scientific" research and training.

The announcement is the first official confirmation that the country is pursuing an aircraft carrier program.

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"China is making use of an old aircraft carrier platform for scientific research, experiment and training," ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday.

The vessel is an empty aircraft carrier shell purchased from Ukraine, which disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China.

"The warship is still seaworthy, as it has been docked at sea for some time. The time for its first sea trial will depend on the refitting schedule," Geng said.

"As an important part of the research and training program, training for aircraft pilots is also in progress," he said.

Geng said the pursuit of an aircraft carrier program would not change the navy's inshore defense strategy, Xinhua reported.

China's need for an aircraft carrier grows from its long coastline and large area of territorial waters, Geng said.

Once recommissioned, the aircraft carrier will make China the last of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to possess a carrier.

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