China’s first indigenous aircraft carrier is likely to be based somewhere near the South China Sea to handle “complicated situations”, mainland media has reported.
Beijing has yet to officially announce the base of China’s second aircraft carrier.
The first carrier, the Liaoning, is based in Qingdao, a port in the north that is close to Japan and South Korea.
An aircraft carrier base in the southern part of China’s coast is likely to enhance the nation’s military capability in the South China Sea, where China is building up artificial islands and stirring up tensions with Washington.
The country’s second carrier was likely to be named the Shandong after the province on China’s east coast, according to an article posted on Wednesday on Xiake Dao, a social media account affiliated with the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.
The article said that “based on existing available information”, the Chinese navy’s second aircraft carrier base would be in a southern province.
“It will be used to tackle the complicated situations in the South China Sea. The aircraft carrier will probably be based there,” the article said.
The Liaoning, which was brought from Ukraine in 1998 and later refitted and renamed after the nation’s northeastern province, was part of the navy fleet conducting drills in the South China Sea in December.
On Tuesday, a television network in Shandong reported that the aircraft carrier was “taking shape” after two years and nine months of construction, but it did not provide further details, such as when the carrier would be completed.
Various Chinese media reports have suggested that the carrier was expected to be completed in the first half of 2017 and would officially join the navy in 2019.
The Defence Ministry had earlier said that it was being built in the northeastern port of Dalian, at the same shipyard that refurbished the country’s first aircraft carrier.
Beijing had yet to officially announce the name of its second carrier, but Shandong was likely to be among the options being considered, according to Xiake Dao.
An aircraft carrier in China is required to be named after a province or direct-controlled municipalities.
The naming of an aircraft carrier was decided by the State Council or the General Staff Department, the former command organ and the headquarters for the People’s Liberation Army.
But the department was disbanded in January 2016, and it is still unclear whether the newly formed Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission has the right to make such a decision.
Despite the new carrier likely to be named the Shandong, the article said there was “very little chance” that it would be based there.
Instead, the new carrier was more likely to be based in “a certain province in the south” to handle the complicated situation in the South China Sea, the article said.