China's second carrier enters the service: CCTV

BEIJING: China's second carrier entered service Tuesday, adding major firepower to its military ambitions as it faces tensions with self-ruled Taiwan as well as the US and regional neighbors around the disputed South China Sea. The ship's commission, as it was named, puts China in a small club of countries with multiple aircraft and the country is reportedly building a third.

China's first carrier was transported and deployed to the People's Liberation Army naval base, on the southern island, at a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping, state media said.

About 5,000 people attended the ceremony, sang the national anthem and raised the national flag, the CCTV broadcaster said.

Hainan province is in the South China Sea to the east of Vietnam , which has competing claims in the waterway along with China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei.

In November, China confirmed that the aircraft carrier had sailed for routine training and tests, drawing the Taipei skies.

China, which sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory, has stepped up military drills around the island since Beijing-sceptic President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016.

China has another carrier - Liaoning, a repurposed Soviet carrier purchased from Ukraine who went into service in 2012.

Beijing fired its military ambitions and in July issued a national defense plan to build a modern, high-tech army. China's defense spending is the second only in the United States - though it is still a long way off - and said earlier this year it plans to raise it 7.5 percent by 2019.

In March, Beijing said it would spend 1.19 trillion yuan ($ 177.6 billion) for defense in 2019, after increasing its release by 8.1 percent to 1.11 trillion yuan in 2018, according to a government report shown at the start of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC).

The nationalistic Global Times said Tuesday that thanks to significant improvements, the second carrier is not a copy of the first and a stronger one. A US tank hypothesis reported in May that recent satellite images suggest the construction of a third aircraft carrier is underway.

The addition of a third aircraft carrier will put China in an elite club with the powers of the sea but will still be able to stay behind the United States, with 10 operated by Nimitz-class supercarriers currently serving.