China has confirmed it is building a second aircraft carrier in a move that is likely to further inflame tensions with its regional rivals over the South China Sea.
Beijing wants to exert its presence in the South China Sea, after complaining of “provocations” from the US, as well as defending its interests in the region.
According to Defense Ministry spokesman
Yang Yujun, construction of the conventionally powered carrier, with a displacement of 50,000 tons, is underway in the country's northeastern port city of Dalian.
"China has a long coastline and a vast maritime area under our jurisdiction. To safeguard our maritime sovereignty, interests and rights is the sacred mission of the Chinese armed forces," Yang said, as cited by Reuters.
The yet-to-be-named vessel will be able to accommodate J-15 fighters and other types of planes, Yang said, adding that fixed-wing aircraft will use a "ski-jump" takeoff ramp. The J-15 is a copy of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-33.
“After an overall consideration of various factors, the relevant authorities started the research and development of China’s second aircraft carrier which is currently under independent design and construction,” Yang said.
Yang did not release more details nor did he say when the carrier would be completed. Information about the program is closely guarded.
China already has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning
. It was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and retrofitted domestically.
Plans to build a second carrier do not come as a surprise. Rumors have been swirling for more than a year, but have been quickly scrubbed by China’s censors.
The acknowledgement of the second aircraft carrier comes
at a time when China is locked in a military tussle with the US over the South China Sea (SCS), where Washington and its allies refused to recognise China’s efforts to build artificial islands with military installations.
China has been looking to increase its maritime defense capabilities, as it exerts its claims in the SCS.