SHANGHAI, April 27 China needs to raise its
military capabilities to protect its growing overseas interests,
its foreign minister said following the launch of China's first
domestically built aircraft carrier, but he vowed not to pursue
China launched the carrier on Wednesday amid rising tension
over North Korea and regional worries about Beijing's
assertiveness in the South China Sea and its broader military
Speaking during a visit to Germany, Chinese Foreign Minister
Wang Yi said Chinese business and citizens had spread all around
the world, with millions of people living overseas and nearly
30,000 Chinese-funded businesses registered in other countries.
"Under this new environment, China has ample reason to raise
its own national defence capability to effectively protect its
fair rights that are increasingly extending overseas," Wang said
in response to a question on the new carrier, according to a
statement on the ministry's website on Thursday.
Wang said China's increased military muscle would help
"safeguard international and regional peace".
China would maintain a "defensive" military policy and had
"no intention to engage in any kind of expansion", he said.
China's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role
in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its
first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new
warships appearing in far-flung places.
Little has been known, however, about China's domestic
aircraft carrier programme, which is a state secret. China also
does not give a spending breakdown for its defence budget.
But the government has said the new carrier's design draws
on experiences from its first carrier, the Liaoning, bought
second-hand from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.
State media has quoted experts as saying China needs at
least six carriers, and a corresponding number of overseas bases
to support them.
But experts say China is far from being able to challenge
the United States which operates 10 carriers and plans to build
two more, and has decades of experience operating them.
Unlike the U.S. navy's longer-range nuclear carriers, both
of China's feature Soviet-design ski-jump bows, intended to give
fighter jets enough lift to take off from shorter decks.
But they lack the powerful catapult technology for launching
aircraft that U.S. carriers use.
The new carrier is not expected to enter full service until
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional reporting by Ben
Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel)