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China's new aircraft carrier no threat to power balance: Russian expert

(Xinhua)

15:49, August 11, 2011

MOSCOW, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- China's first aircraft carrier, which set out on a low-profile sea trial Wednesday, will not shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, a Russian expert says.

The vessel, the former Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag, has been totally refitted for its new role as a platform for research and training.

Ruslan Pukhov, president of the Moscow Strategy and Technologies Analysis Center, told Xinhua that a single aircraft carrier does not alter the power balance in the region.

"It is a matter of both national pride and security," Pukhov said, adding that the aircraft carrier shows that the Chinese Navy has been developing.

He noted that China has long sought an aircraft carrier as it was the only permanent member of the UN Security Council that had no such warship.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia, Spain, Italy, India, Brazil and Thailand operate a total of 21 aircraft carriers around the world.

The Russian expert pointed out it could be hard to make a aircraft carrier into a feasible combat ship.

"Varyag cannot be used for combat operations as it has been obsolete. Chinese military say they are going to use it mostly as a training vessel. Even though, more efforts are still needed," Pukhov said.

He said warfare-ready aircraft carriers would likely appear in China over the next 15 to 20 years if Beijing does not abandon the program.

He said Russia supports China in a number of military programs, including refitting the carrier.

"Russia is China's only neighbor which bothers the least about growth of Chinese navy might," Pukhov said. "Russia has not been intending to expand its own aircraft carriers fleet or to increase its presence in the global ocean."

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