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Experts defend China's right to possess aircraft carriers
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Military experts yesterday defended China's right to possess aircraft carriers and reconfirmed the country's defense policy. The comments follow remarks by a senior Chinese military official on the issue, which sparked speculation overseas.

Major-General Qian Lihua, director of the foreign affairs office under the Ministry of National Defense. [file]

In an interview published by the London-based Financial Times on Monday, Major-General Qian Lihua, director of the foreign affairs office under the Ministry of National Defense, said China has every right to build an aircraft carrier, without revealing whether it has decided to do so.

"The navy of any great power has the dream to have one or more aircraft carriers," Qian said. "The question is not whether you have an aircraft carrier, but what you do with your aircraft carrier," he said.

"Even if one day we have an aircraft carrier, unlike other countries, we will not use it to pursue global deployment or global reach."

The forthright statement, however, did not stop foreign speculation on China's naval build-up. The Financial Times story said that "the pledge is unlikely to reassure those in the region concerned about the PLA navy's emergence as a blue-water force".

Du Yan, a senior military strategic expert who preferred to be mentioned under his pen name, said that only people who truly realize China's mountainous naval defense tasks could understand Beijing's need for an aircraft carrier.

"We have a coastline of 18,000 km and marine territory of 3 million sq km, which nearly equals one-third of our land territory. An aircraft carrier is no more than a normal demand for such a country," he said.

Nearly 30 aircraft carriers are in service around the world, and almost all members of the United Nations Security Council possess carriers, except for China, he said.

The United States has 11 carriers and some developing countries such as Thailand and India also have carriers.

"As a senior military strategy expert, I can confirm to you no matter whether we have an aircraft carrier, we don't plan to change our defensive policies, we have adhered to in the past decades," Du said.

The Beijing-based Global Times yesterday quoted an unnamed military expert as saying the excessive attention from the West on China's carrier plan has added to the difficulties of the outside world to correctly read Beijing's attitude.

"The attention has actually fueled the speculation and concern of some people on China's strategic intentions, it's unfair," the expert said.

(China Daily November 19, 2008)

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