China's Ministry of Defense said the newly named Liaoning aircraft carrier would "raise the overall operational strength of the Chinese navy" and help Beijing to "effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests".
In fact, the aircraft carrier, refitted from a ship bought from Ukraine, will probably have a limited role and be used mostly for training, testing and getting the Chinese Navy ready for the launch of China's first domestically built carriers in 2015.
China said the formal handing over of the carrier to its navy was a triumphant show of national strength at a time of tensions with Japan over islands claimed by both sides. Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply this month after Japan bought the East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from their private owner, sparking large anti-Japan protests across China.
"China will never tolerate any bilateral actions by Japan that harm Chinese territorial sovereignty," Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun told his Japanese counterpart on Tuesday as the two met in a bid to ease tensions. "Japan must banish illusions, undertake searching reflection and use concrete actions to amend its errors, returning to the consensus and understandings reached between our two countries' leaders."
In a sign of the tensions, China has postponed a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties with Japan.
There is little risk of military confrontation, but political tensions between Asia's two biggest economies could fester and worries persist about an unintended incident at sea.
"If blood is shed, people would become irrational," Koichi Kato, an opposition lawmaker who heads the Japan-China Friendship Association was quoted as saying.
For the Chinese navy, the addition of carriers has been a priority as it builds a force capable of deploying far from the Chinese mainland. China this month warned the United States, with President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, not to get involved in separate territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and U.S. allies such as the Philippines.
Personally, I have been writing and warning about Chinese ambitions, especially in this region, for over 10 years. Now, finally, the United States is beginning to take the situation there seriously. The pivoting of our Navy and military resources to strengthen our presence in Asia and the Pacific is one of the first really smart moves we've made out there in a long time. China knows and respects strength and our 'show of force' will add stability and could help avoid armed conflict.
Something Else: On this day in history; September 28th, 1850 the United States abolished flogging in the Navy and on American Merchant Ships.
Live Long and Prosper...