China will develop an aircraft carrier in line with its status as a major global power , Defense Minister Liang Guanglie told visiting Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada on Friday, according to reports carried widely by the Chinese state press and reported by AFP.
"Among the big nations, only China does not have an aircraft carrier. China cannot be without an aircraft carrier forever," the Oriental Morning Post -- citing Japanese official sources -- quoted Liang as saying.
"China's navy is currently rather weak," he added, "we need to develop an aircraft carrier."
Building aircraft carriers is a symbol of an important nation. It is very necessary," the China Daily paper quoted Admiral Hu Yanlin as saying earlier this month. "China has the capability to build aircraft carriers and should do so," he said.
"China needs an aircraft carrier because its global status is rising and it needs to defend its maritime territory and help maintain international peace," Jia Qingguo, an international security expert at Peking University, told AFP. "Sooner or later China will build an aircraft carrier. When it happens will mainly depend on whether the demand for this intensifies or not," he said.
In China's annual parliamentary session earlier this month, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said the nation's military needed modernising across the board as his government asked legislators for a 15.3% increase in defence spending for 2009. The defence budget will rise to 472.9 billion yuan ($69 billion) in 2009, an increase of 62.7 billion yuan on last year and a doubling of defense spending since 2006.