TAIPEI — China’s first aircraft carrier could be assigned to its South China Sea fleet, allowing it to move in areas surrounding southern and eastern Taiwan, a scenario that would pose “a certain threat” to the country, a Navy veteran said yesterday.
Lan Ning-li, a retired vice admiral, was commenting on recent reports about the Varyag, an aircraft carrier that China purchased from Ukraine and has been overhauling to add to its armed forces.
Taiwan’s strategy has always been to keep China’s East China Sea fleet from joining its South China Sea fleet in a pincers movement on Taiwan, said Lan, a former top naval intelligence officer.
Now, with the Varyag likely to join the South China Sea fleet, China’s naval capabilities will be boosted, he said.
He explained that even if Taiwanese naval vessels can block enemy entry from the north and south sides of the Taiwan Strait, the Varyag will allow China to expand naval activities to the east of Taiwan in the Pacific.
“That will make Taiwan vulnerable to enemy attacks at sea from both the front and back,” Lan said.
However, he pointed out that it is still to early to say when the newly overhauled carrier will be capable of combat, as critical systems such as radar have not even been installed, let alone tested.
The types of jet fighters that could be deployed from the carrier is also still undecided, as China is still in talks with Russia over purchasing planes, according to Lan.