China's New Aircraft Carrier "For Study"

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China's rebuilding of a retired Soviet aircraft carrier made headlines earlier this year after pictures circulated online. Now the defense ministry is for the first time publicly admitting that they are building the aircraft carrier.

Chinese military officials announced Wednesday that the decommissioned Varyag aircraft carrier -- once a Soviet warship -- will be used for research and training. Its purchase earlier this year led to rampant speculation about possible military uses.

Many analysts have doubted the ship's actual usefulness in battle -- it lags well behind more modern aircraft carrier technology. But sources have told Reuters that China plans to acquire two more carriers, and "research" on the Varyag may mean helping to build or refit other, more war-ready ships.

It's all part of a current push by China's communist regime to boost military capabilities. Defense spending has shot up sharply, and Beijing continues to test new high-tech equipment, including a stealth fighter. Military strategy experts see this as a major shift.

[Alexander Chieh-Cheng Huang, Professor, Tamkang University]:
"China now can project its air power with moving assets, which means carriers, to even further away from its coastline, and that will have significant security implications to the forces operating in the Western Pacific; including the United States', Japanese, Australian and many other states' forces. So, this is a watershed development."

The carrier plans come as Chinese authorities flex their muscles more aggressively in the South China Sea, where territorial disputes with Taiwan and other neighbors have festered for years.