President Xi Jingping has officially commissioned China’s second aircraft carrier into service at a naval port in Hainan province, state media report. The move comes as relations between Beijing and the US remain tense.
Named after Shandong province, the vessel is China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier and was delivered to the navy on Tuesday.
China’s 2nd aircraft carrier officially commissioned. Named Shandong after the province. If every Chinese province gets an aircraft carrier named after, it will be 34 aircraft carrier 😬 pic.twitter.com/UrAHjQxG41
— Carl Zha (@CarlZha) December 17, 2019
The new addition marks a significant boost to China’s naval firepower, joining the US, UK, and Italy to become just the fourth country in the world to have multiple carriers. A third Chinese carrier is currently under construction.
Shandong also boasts a higher aircraft capacity than the first Chinese aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which went into service in 2012. Construction on Shandong began in November 2013 and it was reportedly expected to be commissioned in April 2019.
The new carrier has undergone several sea trials ahead of commissioning, including exercises last month in the Taiwan Straits, a highly sensitive area in the region.
Diplomatic tensions between China and the US show no signs of dying down. The US recently expelled two Chinese diplomats it accused of spying on a US military base in Norfolk, Virginia. The US State Department has also imposed restrictions on Chinese diplomats generally, obliging them to request permission before meeting with local officials.
Beijing accused the US of “distorting the facts” in its accusations against the two diplomats, and responded to the State Department’s new restrictions by introducing its own for US diplomats in China.
There has been some thawing in the ongoing trade war, with the announcement of a preliminary agreement between the two nations to resolve the feud which saw tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods imposed by both sides.
China recently suspended a new tariff hike due to hit US goods this weekend in the wake of the ‘Phase One’ deal, but said tariffs already imposed will continue to apply until further negotiations.
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