China starts work on new naval base

Shanghai - China is building a new naval facility sprawled over more than 160ha on the mainland's second-biggest island, which is tipped to become a training base for aircraft carrier crews.

Construction has begun at the base on Chongming island, the South China Morning Post reported.

The development comes at a time when China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said changing position on China's claims over the South China Sea would shame its ancestors, while not facing up to infringements of Chinese sovereignty there would shame its children.

The normally taciturn minister, in unusually strong comments to academics and former officials, said yesterday China could not face its children and grandchildren if "the gradual and incremental invasion of China's sovereignty and encroachment on China's interests" was allowed to continue.

Chongming lies in the Yangtze estuary next to Changxing island, where the giant Jiangnan Shipyard is reportedly involved in the construction of China's first locally built aircraft carrier.

The 1,267 sq km island is China's second largest after Hainan, with a population of 820,000.

The navy is likely to use the base to train aircraft carrier crews, but not as a home port for the carriers, said military analysts, citing its proximity to Shanghai, where many flights take off and land.

China already has two aircraft carrier bases, in Dalian in the north and Hainan in the south.

"China is now focusing on developing its navy," said Hong Kong- based military observer Leung Kwok Leung. "The latest development of Chongming indicates the PLA Navy's base in Wusongkou in Shanghai has failed to meet increasing demands."

Earlier this month, China Central Television reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had stationed its mainstay J-10 jet fighters on the island to boost coastal defences ahead of any potential military conflict with Japan over the East China Sea.

Reuters

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'China starts work on new naval base'. Print Edition | Subscribe