In what could be seen as a show of force, China has put its first aircraft carrier into service at a time when tensions are running high with Japan.
The new vessel, which was bought from Ukraine, will have a limited operational role and will mainly be used for scientific research and training.
Beijing and Tokyo are currently locked in a row over Japan’s purchase of the East China Sea islands.
The carrier, called the Liaoning, has undergone extensive renovation in the Chinese port of Dalian since it was purchased from Ukraine.
“The entry into the ranks of this aircraft carrier will raise the level of modernisation of China’s overall naval operational forces,” the defence ministry said on its website.
“When all the major powers, and even some small and medium-sized countries, own aircraft carriers, it is natural that China should have its own aircraft carrier,” Rear Admiral Yang Yi wrote in a commentary in the China Daily.
“China has vast sea areas and huge maritime rights and interests that it needs to protect, and China’s growing overseas interests require a strong navy to provide security guarantees,” said Yang.
“China is tough-minded and will absolutely safeguard its sovereignty and national dignity,” Yang said. “We stand for peace, but we are not afraid of any threats or intimidation.”