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China's first aircraft carrier: Is it any good? (+video)

China entered into service Tuesday its first aircraft carrier, a refitted ship purchased from Ukraine. One expert describes it as 'not cutting edge.'

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"If blood is shed, people would become irrational," Koichi Kato, an opposition lawmaker who heads the Japan-China Friendship Association and will travel to Beijing, told Reuters.

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"Not cutting edge"

For the Chinese navy, the addition of carriers has been a priority as it builds a force capable of deploying far from the Chinese mainland.

China this month warned the United States, with President Obama's "pivot" to Asia, not to get involved in separate territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and US allies such as the Philippines.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in turn urged China and its Southeast Asian neighbors to resolve disputes "without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and certainly without the use of force".

Narushige Michishita, a security expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said he thought the timing of the launch was unrelated to the islands dispute.

Rather, experts said it might be associated with China's efforts to build up patriotic unity ahead of a Communist Party congress that will install a new generation of top leaders as early as next month.

"China is taking another step to boost its strategic naval capability," Michishita said. "If they come to have an operational aircraft carrier, for the time being we are not super-concerned about the direct implications for the military balance between the US and Japan on the one hand, and China on the other. This is still not cutting edge."

The East China Sea tensions with Japan were complicated on Tuesday by the entry of Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing calls an illegitimate breakaway, which also lays claim to the islands.

Japanese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon to turn away about 40 Taiwan fishing boats and 12 Taiwan Coast Guard vessels. Six Chinese patrol ships were also near the islands but four left, leaving two nearby but not in waters Japan considers its own.

Japan protested to Taiwan, a day after lodging a complaint with China over what it called a similar intrusion by Chinese vessels.

Taiwan has friendly ties with Japan, but the two sides have long squabbled over fishing rights in the area. China and Taiwan both argue they have inherited China's historic sovereignty over the islands.

The flare-up in tension comes at a time when both China and Japan confront domestic political pressures. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government faces an election in months, adding pressure on him not to look weak on China. China's Communist Party is preoccupied with the leadership turnover, with President Hu Jintao due to step down.

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