Service on China's new aircraft carrier begins amid maritime dispute with Japan

China's first aircraft carrier is docked in Dalian, Liaoning. Photo: CDIC / Reuters

Writing in today's China Daily, Rear Admiral Yang Yi tries to address international concerns about China's new aircraft carrier which has been officially handed over to the People's Liberation Army Naval forces.

After it comes into service, the aircraft carrier will be mainly responsible for scientific research and training missions to accumulate the experience and technology necessary for China to build a more advanced aircraft carrier...

– Rear Admiral Yang Yi

Hardly the words that will soothe Tokyo as the Japanese government begins talks in Beijing aimed at defusing the bitter row over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Will the aircraft carrier, on it's maiden service voyage, sail to the waters around the islands and close to the chill wind that blows between Beijing and Tokyo?.

China says Yang Yi "..will never pursue a "gunboat policy" and bully weaker countries."

So far both sides have deployed the 'white fleet'; lightly armed surveillance vessels and fishing boats in a cat and mouse game. Today fishing vessels which sailed from Taiwan have turned back, cannon was fired by the Japanese but luckily just water cannon. So far both nations have not sent warships close enough to risk a full blown naval engagement.

However, today China becomes a sea power because even it is an old soviet aircraft carrier, refitted and re-equipped, the newly named Liaoning gives the Chinese membership of an elite group of nations which can 'project power'.

China now has its sights set on a course to develop its own aircraft carriers, at least another four, at a time when public pressure is demanding a tougher response in its multiple maritime disputes.