NEWPORT BEACH, CA -- China's first aircraft carrier could begin trials as early as this summer--a move that would drastically alter the appearance of the balance of power in the region, the chief of US forces in the Pacific said Tuesday.
The craft was purchased from the Ukraine over 10 years ago, and is generally accepted as symbolic of China's desire to be a military power capable of topping America's decades-long hold on the West Pacific.
"Based on the feedback from our partners and allies in the Pacific, I think the change in perception by the region will be significant," Admiral Robert Willard told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Willard also made note of the "remarkable growth" of China's military.
The US Pacific command under Willard has five aircraft carrier strike groups, which it has used to demonstrate American power across an important global trade region.
However, China's military build-up, which includes the swift development of ballistic missiles and cyber warfare capabilities, has ruffled feathers in the region.
Willard said that China has increased and improved its fleet of both conventional and nuclear-powered submarines, which had prompted a proliferation of submarines in the Asia-Pacific. Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia were also mentioned as countries that have either acquired or announced their intention to acquire or increase their submarine fleets, reported the Associated Press.