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China's aircraft carrier ends sea trial

China's aircraft carrier ends sea trial
A Chinese newspaper featuring front-page coverage on the country's first aircraft carrier going to sea trials is sold in Beijing on August 12, 2011. The ship is a former Soviet craft that China acknowledged was rebuilding for research and training. The start of the sea trials underline the country's big naval ambitions and fuel concern about its growing military strength. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

BEIJING, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- China's first aircraft carrier has completed its four-day maiden sea trial and returned to port for more refitting, Chinese media reported.

The giant platform was pulled back by seven tugboats into the northeast Dalian port Sunday morning, Xinhua reported, noting that while the flight deck and the radar system could be spotted, the vessel's weapons system remained covered under tarps.

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China, which purchased the refitted former Soviet vessel from Ukraine in 1998, began its first sea trials last Wednesday off the Dalian coast. Details of the sea trials or the vessel's weapons system were not announced.

Earlier official media reports said the aircraft carrier will serve mainly as a platform for experiments and training.

China recently confirmed it was working on its first aircraft carrier after reports had been appearing about it. Its military experts have said country needs such carriers to safeguard national security and development as it is surrounded by foreign warships.

It is not clear how many aircraft carriers China plans to have eventually. Having the huge warships in line with China's military buildup, though it is bound to further raise concerns of neighboring countries.

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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 program will also give China a carrier presence in the Pacific waters off its coast, The New York Times has said.

The United States has pointed to China's lack of transparency about the carrier and other military additions.

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