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Chinese Paper Calls for More Carriers as India Unveils Its Own

Aug. 13 (Bloomberg) -- China needs to speed development of an aircraft carrier after India’s launch of its first such vessel offered a reminder of the ship’s strategic importance, the state-run Global Times newspaper said.

India’s unveiling yesterday of its first homegrown carrier, the Vikrant, provides a “stimulus” to China’s own efforts, the newspaper said in an editorial.

“China should speed up its construction of domestic aircraft carriers,” it said. “The earlier China establishes its own aircraft carrier capabilities, the earlier it will gain the strategic initiative.

The Chinese call and the Vikrant’s unveiling reflect a push among Asian nations to beef up maritime forces as they jockey for influence in a region rich in natural resources. Defense budgets in China and Japan are growing, while the Philippines, locked in a territorial dispute with China, is buying new ships and helicopters and negotiating a closer military relationship with the U.S.

The strategic deterrence provided by aircraft carriers is significant, the Global Times said. The world’s large powers have adjusted their strategies toward China based on estimates of its military strength, it said.

China’s first aircraft carrier, built from an incomplete Ukrainian hull and dubbed the Liaoning, began sea drills this year. Song Xue, deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, said in April that the country’s next carrier will be larger and transport more fighters, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Arms Race

China’s Defense Ministry warned Asian neighbors to be wary of a Japanese military buildup after the government in Tokyo unveiled a 19,500-ton helicopter warship named the Izumo this month. The two countries are locked in a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea.

‘‘India has adopted a different attitude than Japan toward territorial disputes with China,” the editorial said. “Meanwhile, India’s overall national strength lags behind that of China. Therefore, China perceives Japan rather than India as its biggest neighboring threat.”

At a ceremony in the port city of Kochi on the west coast of India, the 37,500-ton, 260-meter-long (162-foot-long) Vikrant was moved out of a building dock to a refitting dock for the second phase of construction before it’s handed to the navy in 2016 or 2017, according to a statement from the country’s Defense Ministry.

Proud Moment

“It is a red-letter day for the entire nation and a proud moment for the country which has achieved self-reliance in the field of warship design and construction,” Defense Minister A.K. Antony said in a speech at the ceremony.

Satellite imagery of a shipbuilding facility near Shanghai on Changxing Island suggests China has started construction of an aircraft carrier, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly said in a Aug. 2 e-mailed statement.

“Liaoning has been repeatedly described as a training platform that would precede the construction and commissioning of homegrown carriers,” said James Hardy, Asia Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, according to the statement.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Henry Sanderson in Beijing at hsanderson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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