BEIJING: China on Tuesday played down media reports that Beijing plans to sell its first aircraft carrier ‘Liaoning’ to Pakistan, saying it follows certain principles while exporting its naval ships to other countries.
A Pakistani newspaper on February 10 cited the Chinese and Russian media reports as stating that “the Chinese government has decided to sell its first and only aircraft carrier to Pakistan…for a yet-undetermined price in order to upgrade the Pakistan Navy‘s capabilities.”
Such a move will make the Pakistan Navy more competitive against India, which has an operational aircraft carrier, the report said, adding that ‘Liaoning’ will be resold to Pakistan after a “large-scale upgrade.”
When asked for her comment on the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “I have not seen the report you mentioned.”
“But China has always followed principles regarding exports of its naval ships to other countries,” she said, without elaborating.
Earlier report said China, which shares close linkages with the Pakistan military, is currently building four modern naval ships for the Pakistan Navy.
Chinese military experts, however, termed the media report of the sale of the Liaoning to Pakistan as false.
The Chinese government has never disclosed any plan regarding such a deal, state-run Global Times here reported.
It also said that its reporter could not find the Chinese media report regarding the sale cited by the Pakistani newspaper.
It is a groundless allegation and complete falsehood, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, told the Global Times.
As China’s first-ever aircraft carrier, the Liaoning acts as both training vessel and combat warship, that there is a zero possibility of reselling it, and China does not have spare carriers to sell to Pakistan, Song noted.
The Liaoning is the only Chinese aircraft carrier in active service, and the country’s first domestically developed carrier, known as the Type-001 A, is still undergoing sea trials.
Song said that “such reports have no credibility even judging from Pakistan’s perspective, as the country’s navy pursues an onshore defense strategy, which means it does not need a carrier. And its defense budget cannot afford an aircraft carrier or maintain one.
Pakistan’s main focus is to maintain its own strategic nuclear capabilities rather than to promote the improvement of conventional capabilities, especially the improvement of offshore capabilities. (Buying China’s carrier) does not meet the actual needs of Pakistan, Song said.
China is reportedly building a third aircraft carrier.
Although it has been widely speculated that China will have at least five aircraft carriers, including two nuclear-powered ones by 2030-2035, China’s defence ministry has not yet revealed a plan for future carriers, the Global Times said.