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China’s First Aircraft Carrier Starts Sea Trial, Xinhua Says

China’s refitted Soviet-era aircraft carrier, which it said will be used for scientific research and training, set sail today, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing people in the military it didn’t identify.

The sea trial was “in line with schedule of the carrier’s refitting project and would not take a long time,” the official news agency said. The carrier left Dalian port in the northeastern province of Liaoning, Xinhua reported.

China on July 28 officially confirmed it is pursuing a carrier program, Xinhua reported at the time, citing Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng. The country is building two more carriers at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai, Reuters said separately, citing an unidentified person with ties to the Communist Party leadership.

Chinese leaders have talked for decades of plans to acquire what they call “aircraft mother ships” as part of their military modernization. Such a fleet would expand China’s power in the region at a time of growing concern that territorial disputes with Asian neighbors including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines may boil over into conflict.

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