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China's aircraft carrier begins sea trial

BEIJING, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- China's first aircraft carrier Wednesday began its maiden sea trial with the state media saying it will serve mainly as a platform for experiment and training.

The refitted vessel left its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast China's Liaoning Province Wednesday morning, Xinhua news agency reported. It quoted military sources as saying the sea trial is in line with the carrier's refitting schedule.

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The former Soviet Union originally started building the carrier in 1991 but did not complete it. The vessel was then purchased from Ukraine which had disarmed it and removed its engines before selling it to China, the report said.

Xinhua said the length of the sea trial had yet to be determined.

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China recently confirmed it was working on its first aircraft carrier after reports appeared about it.

Recently Xinhua quoted military experts as saying the country needs such carriers to safeguard national security and development as it is surrounded by foreign warships.

The experts said China is the only one among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council that does not have an active-service aircraft carrier. Other Security Council members are the United States, Russia, Britain and France.

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It is unclear how many aircraft carriers China plans to have eventually. But having such carriers in line with China's military buildup, however, is bound to further raise concerns of neighboring countries.

Japan's ties with China are already strained over the Senkaku Islands while Vietnam and the Philippines have seen their disputes with China in the South China Sea escalate.

The New York Times reported the Chinese program is designed to create a carrier presence in the Pacific waters off its coast.

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