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China finishes hull of first domestically built aircraft carrier

China has completed assembly of its first domestically made aircraft carrier and design work on the vessel was finished, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said workers were also installing equipment on the carrier, without giving further details.

China confirmed earlier this year that it was building the carrier, its second after the People’s Liberation Army commissioned the Liaoning – a renovated former Soviet vessel – four years ago. The new vessel is widely seen as part of China’s push to expand its naval capacity amid rising challenges over the disputed East and South China seas, and to protect its growing overseas interests.

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Beijing has been tight-lipped about the carrier’s construction, though military observers said they expected the design of the new vessel to closely follow that of the Liaoning. When asked in August whether the construction was almost finished, Wu only said that it was going smoothly.

Also on Thursday, Wu criticised an article by US Defence Secretary Ash Carter as “full of pride and prejudice against China”.

In the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Carter said China’s “coercive actions” were the reasons behind “contentious and long-running regional disputes, particularly at sea”. Describing the US’ role as “supplying oxygen” for Asia-Pacific’s security, Carter pledged to continue to “devote resources to new capabilities critical to the rebalance”, including increasing the number of military ships, submarines, advanced bombers and other tools to develop “a principled security network”.

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Wu said the US’ growing military presence in Asia Pacific, including sending warships to patrol “China-owned” islets, “would never gain ‘balance’ but could led to ‘unbalance’ in the region”.

“From North Korea to Vietnam, from Iraq to Libya, did the US Army supply oxygen or smoke?” Wu said. “We hope some Americans will … look at themselves before blaming other ­nations.”