|China's first aircraft carrier commissioned|
Beijing, Sept 25 (IANS): China's first aircraft carrier was delivered and commissioned to the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy on Tuesday after years of refitting and sea trials.
Overseen by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the carrier was officially handed over by the navy's main contractor, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, at a ceremony held at a naval base in north-east China's city of Dalian, reported Xinhua.
Hu, also chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), endorsed a PLA flag and naming certificate to the naval unit that received the carrier.
The carrier, formerly known as the Soviet ship Varyag, was renamed Liaoning and underwent years of refitting efforts to install engines and weapons, as well as a year-long sea trials.
The ceremony made China the 10th country around the world and the last among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to have an aircraft carrier in active service.
Wen said while reading a congratulatory letter sent from top central authorities that China's first aircraft carrier in active service will be of "great and far-reaching significance in inspiring patriotism, national spirit and driving national defense technologies".
"It will also be of great significance in enhancing national defence power and the country's comprehensive strength," Wen said.
"China's development of an aircraft carrier was an important strategic decision," Wen said.
"The delivery and commissioning of the first carrier is a milestone in the PLA's history and embodies a major achievement of China's weaponry and equipment development, as well as its national defence modernization," he said.
After the commissioning ceremony, Hu boarded the Liaoning and inspected the navy's honour guard.
The President and Premier later visited the carrier's flight deck and some cabins where they spoke to sailors, and scientists and engineers who developed the carrier.
Authorities said that after being commissioned into the navy, the Liaoning will continue to serve scientific research purposes, as well as military training.
China announced its aircraft carrier programme in July 2011, when the carrier was berthed in Dalian for refitting. Dalian is located at the south end of Liaoning province.