Reactions mixed to aircraft carrier
BEIJING - Foreign governments responded coolly to Beijing's announcement that it is refitting its first aircraft carrier, while the news sparked media interest.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of National Defense officially announced the existence of the carrier, which China bought from Ukraine, saying it was being refitted for scientific research and training purposes.
According to Reuters, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan tried to downplay the announcement.
US officials pointed to a US Navy intelligence estimate that China would still have only "very limited" aircraft carrier proficiency and capabilities by 2020, even if its carrier program proceeded as expected, the report said.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Thursday that Tokyo will "continuously pay attention to China's military modernization including its possession of aircraft carriers".
The media, on the other hand, looked at everything from the carrier's launch date to its capacity, while commenting on the latest developments in China's military modernization.
The Associated Press said that the latest move "has come to symbolize China's ambitions for a military with global reach ... though the addition of one carrier to China's rapidly expanding navy isn't expected to threaten the US military's dominance".
Meanwhile, Tokyo-based online magazine the Diplomat said that "the move indicates rapid improvement in Chinese naval aviation, and suggests China's determination to extend its regional blue water presence".
Another Reuters report cited Rory Medcalf, program director of International Security at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, as saying that the Chinese carrier program could accelerate the existing drive for submarines in Southeast Asia.
"But I do not think it will be fundamental driver of it," he said.
Moon Hong-sik, research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, said in the same report that "in the past, China could only criticize the Americans whenever a US aircraft carrier entered the Yellow Sea off the South Korean coast".
"Now, they are capable of displaying their own show of force in response to an American carrier deployment in close proximity to China."
Seoul and Washington have held naval drills frequently since 2010, with US aircraft carriers involved near the Chinese coast in the Yellow Sea in the name of deterring Pyongyang.
Beijing strongly protested such moves, which placed the Chinese capital within the carrier's striking distance.
It has also demanded that Pentagon stop its aerial and naval reconnaissance off China's coast.
"It would take China several decades to match the US' current carrier fleet of 11, but Beijing only needs a few to enhance its ability to deny US forces access to waters around China in the event of a regional conflict, or to protect its shipping lanes and other perceived national interests overseas," the Wall Street Journal said in a report published on Thursday.
Xinhua contributed to this story.