Our correspondent, Guo Yuandan
A report published in the Pakistani daily, “The Nation”, of the 10th stated that China will sell its first and only aircraft carrier to Pakistan. The news is rumored to have originated in the Chinese and Russian media, but, according to “Global Times”, is sheer fabrication.
According to this report in The Nation, based on reports from the Chinese and Russian media of the 9th, the aircraft carrier Liaoning, was to be sold to Pakistan at an unknown price and was expected to make Pakistan more competitive (in strength) vis-a-vis India. The Global Times reporter found that this headline bluffing report actually has many falsehoods. For example, the report claims that the Chinese Navy plans to build six nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in replacement of the Liaoning. But, in fact, China has never announced any such plan. As of now, only the first domestic aircraft carrier is under construction in the Dalian Shipyard, as per the construction plan released in the public domain in China.
The Chinese media alluded to in the above report is the South China Morning Post, but the Global Times reporter could not retrieve any despatch on the website of the newspaper pertinent to the report. Another source of information used by ” The Nation” is the Russian media — “Russia Today”. The “Global Times” reporter found that the “Russian Today” report in question quoted a report published by the well known US defense website “Naval Focus” on the 6th. That report claimed that the Chinese media ” separately disclosed ” that China would upgrade the Liaoning for sale to Pakistan. However, the report of “Naval Focus” is not only baseless but also contradictory. For, according to the report, the “Liaoning” was commissioned in September 2012 and is to serve the Chinese Navy for about 18 years”, which seems to imply that China would sell the Liaoning in 2030. But the report goes on to categorically assert that “Liaoning will be sold to Pakistan by 2020.”
Liaoning’s progenitor was the Soviet Navy’s Varyag, an aircraft carrier of Marshal Kuznetsov class. Construction of the Varyag was interrupted in the late 1980s. Subsequently, China purchased the Varyag and continued to build it. On September 25, 2012, the Liaoning joined the Chinese Navy. Up to now, the Liaoning ship is the only aircraft carrier in China, and its main purpose is scientific research and training.
In an interview with the “Global Times” on the 10th, Chinese military expert, Song Zhongping, said that the news of China’s selling the Liaoning ship is a complete rumor and a lie. In the first place, he said, China selling Liaoning class ships to any country would not be realistic. As China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning is both a training ship and a combat ship. It is the “apple of the eye” of the Chinese navy and just cannot be sold. Second, it is not as if there are more aircraft carriers in China that can be sold to Pakistan. Song Zhongping added that the news is not credible from the Pakistani perspective either. According to him, Pakistan pursues a near shore defense strategy and therefore does not need an aircraft carrier. In addition, Pakistan cannot afford to buy and service the aircraft carrier out of its military budget. Song Zhongping also told the Global Times that Pakistan’s main thrust is to maintain its strategic nuclear triad, rather than promotion or enhancement of conventional capabilities, especially naval capability, as that would not meet Pakistan’s real needs.