August 30, 2012
Credit: Credit: FYJS
When Japanese activists scrambled ashore on a disputed island chain in the East China Sea this month, one of China’s most hawkish military commentators proposed an uncharacteristically mild response.
Retired Major Gen. Luo Yuan suggested naming China’s new aircraft carrier Diaoyu, after the Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. It would demonstrate China’s sovereignty over the islands known as the Senkakus in Japanese, he said.
For a notable hardliner, it was one of the least bellicose reactions he has advocated throughout a series of territorial rows that have soured China’s ties with its neighbors in recent months.
More typical was Gen. Luo’s warning in April that the Chinese navy would “strike hard” if provoked during a dispute with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
One possible reason for Gen. Luo’s restraint, military analysts say, is he knows it could be towards the end of the decade before China can actually deploy the new carrier to the disputed islands or any other trouble spot.
Despite public anticipation in China that the carrier -- a refitted, Soviet-era vessel bought from Ukraine -- will soon become the flagship of a powerful navy, defense experts say it lacks the strike aircraft, weapons, electronics, training and logistical support it needs to become a fighting warship.
“There is considerable uncertainty involved, but it could take anything from three to five years,” said Carlo Kopp, the Melbourne, Australia based co-founder of Air Power Australia, an independent military think tank.