The mission by the refurbished former Soviet carrier marks a first step in readying the craft for full deployment. China says the ship is intended for research and training, pointing to longer-term plans to build up to three additional clones of the carrier in China’s own shipyards.
"As a major economy, China on the one hand should take more responsibilities for the world and on the other hand, it has some new security interests that it needs to protect. Under the circumstances, China’s naval power needs to grow accordingly," said Wang Shaopu, director of the Center for Pan-Pacific Studies at Jiaotong University in Shanghai.
Information about the cruise was tightly restricted in line with the Chinese military’s habitual secrecy, although the official Xinhua News Agency indicated that the step had been planned for some time. The 1,000-foot (300-meter) vessel departed through fog from the northern port of Dalian where it is being overhauled.