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China announces formal handover of 1st aircraft carrier

Published on Sep 25, 2012 12:33 PM

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, official entered naval ranks on Tuesday, the country's Ministry of Defence announced, in a move that it said would help project maritime power and defend Chinese territory.

The ministry announcement of the handover to the navy came while Beijing and Tokyo are embroiled in a dispute over islands claimed by both sides.

"The entry into the ranks of this aircraft carrier will raise the level of modernisation of China's overall naval operational forces," the ministry said on its website. It did not say whether the announcement meant the carrier had formally entered service.

The Liaoning will help "effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests", said the announcement. The carrier, named after a north-east Chinese province, is likely to be used for training only.