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China Finally Reveals 'Secret' Aircraft Carrier

George Doyle/Thinkstock(HONG KONG) -- It’s one of the world’s worst-kept military secrets, but China’s defense minister, Chen Bingde, has finally come out and told a Hong Kong newspaper that “an aircraft carrier has been under construction, but has not been completed.”

The 990-foot long carrier is being constructed in the northeast port of Dalian.  While Chen refused to give a completion date, it is reportedly close and tests are expected to start later this year.

It took an army of workers five years to transform the Soviet-era hull, which was initially bought by a company with ties to the People's Liberation Army who claimed they were building a floating casino destined for Macau.

Chen’s assistant chief, Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, assistant chief of the general staff, was quoted by the Hong Kong Commercial Daily as saying, "All of the great nations in the world own aircraft carriers -- they are symbols of a great nation."  But he also emphasized that after the carrier was deployed it would "definitely not sail to other countries' territorial waters".

Certainly for China, having an aircraft carrier is a powerful symbol of the growing might of its navy.  It is a symbol of deterrence but also potentially a symbol of aggression, particularly in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Yellow Sea and the Taiwan Straits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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