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Jan 20

China Restores Soviet Aircraft Carrier: Expert

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING – China has nearly finished restoring an old Soviet aircraft carrier bought in 1998, which will be used for training and as a model for a future indigenously built ship, an expert said Jan. 19.

The Varyag, a Kuznetsov-class carrier, was originally built for the Soviet navy, but construction was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Its immense armored hull, with no engine, electrics or propeller, was bought by China in 1998 and towed from Ukraine’s Black Sea coast to China.

“They have fixed the inside at 100 percent,” said Andrei Chang, head of the Kanwa Information Centre, which monitors China’s military.

According to Chang, the renovation process has included fixing the boilers, electricity, electronic systems, living quarters and engines. The hull and deck of the ship have also been refurbished, other experts have said.

China has never officially announced it was renovating the 990-foot long aircraft carrier.

The carrier, currently based in the northeast port of Dalian, could make its first sea trip “very soon,” Chang told AFP, adding the refurbishment of the ship had taken place “at unexpected speed.”

But he said the ship’s radars still needed work, and the fighter planes that will train on the carrier are still being tested.

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Beijing builds navy to hold US at bay

Geoff Dyer and Richard McGregor – Financial times January 18, 2011

Backed by steep tree-covered hills, the long sandy beach at Yalong Bay is a tropical tourist idyll. The resort on Hainan island, off China’s southern coast, has become popular among urban professionals looking for a break from their hectic lives.

Yalong Bay also has another life. On its eastern reaches, well beyond the strip of five-star hotels, two frigates are docked at a new naval base. And according to satellite pictures published two years ago, on the far side of a peninsula that juts into the bay lie the cavernous entrances to a vast underground submarine base.

The bay is a platform from which China can project naval power into the South China Sea, with its myriad disputed island chains, and potentially beyond into the Indian Ocean. As such, the area has also become an important piece of real estate in the escalating military rivalry between the US and China – and a symbol of one of the most controversial aspects of China’s rise.

That rivalry was on display last week when China tested a new stealth fighter aircraft just as Robert Gates, US defence secretary, was visiting Beijing for a long-delayed meeting aimed at building trust. Yet it is China’s naval build-up that is generating the most attention, because it has the potential to challenge US interests in the region directly.

Speaking last year, Mr Gates warned that investments by China and other countries in new missiles and anti-ship weapons “could threaten America’s primary way to project power and help allies in the Pacific”. In an earlier speech, without mentioning China, he cautioned that new competition “could end the operational sanctuary our navy has enjoyed in the western Pacific for the better part of six decades”

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