China to Launch Carrier in 2011: Taiwan Spy Chief
|10:34:57 PM, Thursday, April 28, 2011|
"Taiwan's spy chief on Monday said China could bring its first aircraft carrier into service before the end of the year, kindling fears in Taipei over Beijing's continued naval build-up. Tsai Teh-sheng, head of the island's National Security Bureau, said the "Varyag" a half-completed Soviet era aircraft carrier Beijing obtained from Ukraine in 1998, is expected to make its maiden voyage before the end of 2011.
The warship has been docked in China's eastern Dalian harbour where it has undergone extensive refurbishing work since 2002.
"Varyag has restored its sailing capability, and is expected to start providing training missions before the end of 2011," Tsai said in response to a parliamentary question by Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang party.
Tsai said the warship will have "certain combat capability" and will serve as a base for an unknown number of China's home-grown fighter jets which are modelled on Russian-made Su-33s.
Taiwan's defence ministry has expressed alarm at China's naval buildup although experts say it may still take time for the People's Liberation Army to operate its first carrier group complete with fighter jets.
"The Chinese communists' acquisition of their first aircraft carrier will threaten not only Taiwan but the stability of Asia," Taiwan's defence ministry spokesman David Lo told AFP..."