General Luo Yuan, a senior researcher at Beijing’s Academy of Military Sciences, sets the record straight on China’s aircraft carrier ambitions.

“If we consider our neighbors – India will have three aircraft carriers by 2014 and Japan will have three carriers by 2014,”

“So I think the number [for China] should not be less than three so we can defend our rights and our maritime interests effectively.” (Link)

The funny thing about this statement is that it completely reverses the popular notion in Asia about China’s naval ambitions. Beijing goes from being a country aggressively building up a carrier force to a country that would, upon completion, still be outnumbered two to one.

Never mind that the Shi Lang is more than three times’ the size of JS Hyuga. In terms of tonnage, China’s three carriers would in total weigh in around 185,000 tons. By contrast, Japan’s two Hyuga-class ships and one 22DDH ship would total 60,000 tons. There is also evidence that the first 22DDH ship will not be ready in 2014.

Regardless, to China these relatively small Japanese ships are aircraft carriers in all but name.

Beijing believes that the three Japanese carriers it referred to, built for helicopter operations, could eventually be converted into full aircraft carriers.

The message for Japan in all of this is that the internal debate about whether or not to build aircraft carriers is irrelevant to its neighbors. In the eyes of Japan’s neighbors, Japan already has carriers.


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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch