MANILA, Philippines —The Armed Forces of the Philippines says there was “no cause for alarm” over China’s first aircraft carrier and the construction of two similar vessels.
“It’s part of the confidence building measures among navies of the world that they are acquiring these and there is no cause for alarm,” military spokesman Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez said Thursday.
Rodriguez said the AFP was aware of the old Soviet ship that China renovated to be its first carrier, a project that has added to regional worries over Beijing’s fast military expansion and growing assertiveness on territorial issues.
“We’ve known that for the past three or four years,” said Rodriguez.
China on Wednesday sought to downplay the capability of the vessel, saying it would be used for training and “research”.
Rodriguez said he saw no reason to be worried about China’s military upgrade amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“I think it will not make that much difference because we understand that these disputes or any dispute for that matter is best resolved in the negotiating table,” Rodriguez said.
The ship, once called the Varyag, was originally built for the Soviet navy. Construction was interrupted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
China reportedly bought the ship’s immense armored hull—with no engine, electrics or propeller—in 1998.
State television on Wednesday broadcast rare footage of the ship, which is based in the northeastern port city of Dalian.
China’s defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng declined to specify when the vessel would be officially unveiled.
But he stressed that it would not signal any change in the country’s official adherence to a peaceful military stance focused on national defense.
“We have a long coastline and vast waters under our jurisdiction, and guaranteeing maritime security and safeguarding maritime sovereignty and rights and interests is the sacred duty of China’s armed forces,” he said.
China’s People’s Liberation Army—the largest armed force in the world—is extremely secretive about its defense programs, which benefit from a huge and expanding military budget boosted by the nation’s runaway economic growth.
The PLA also operates the country’s navy. With Agence France-Presse