Taipei: Taiwan said Wednesday that its giant neighbour China has started building its first aircraft carrier, a move analysts have said could raise military tensions in the region.
The head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau told parliament construction of the carrier had begun, Lin Yu-fang, a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang party, told AFP.
However, the security chief, Tsai Teh-sheng said the carrier’s construction “has not been smooth” and that the Chinese navy may struggle to put it into service by 2012 unless it makes a manufacturing breakthrough soon.
“This is the result of an evaluation not only from (Taiwan’s) National Security Bureau…but also from the Chinese communists,” Tsai said, according to Lin.
Taiwanese military experts expect the People’s Liberation Army to take at least 10 years to have its first operating carrier group complete with carrier-based fighters and other warships.
“Once they complete the ambitious project, it will have a serious and far-fetched military impact on the region,” said Wung Ming-hsien, professor at Taipei’s Tamkang University.
“And by that time, the United States, Japan, and Taiwan will need to overhaul their military strategies.”
A carrier group would potentially double the military threat posed to Taiwan by China by allowing the Chinese to approach from directions other than across the Strait, he said.
Two weeks ago Taiwan’s defence ministry said in its annual report that China had continued its military build-up against the island despite warming ties, tipping the military balance in the Taiwan Strait with more than 1,300 ballistic and cruise missiles targeting the island.
Ties between China and Taiwan have improved significantly since the China-friendly politician Ma Ying-jeou became the island’s president last year, vowing to adopt a non-confrontational policy towards the mainland.
But China still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting to be reunified by force if necessary, although the island has governed itself since 1949 when a civil war ended.
The United States has repeatedly urged China to be more transparent about its rapid military buildup, warning of a shifting balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region that could cause misunderstanding.