Chinese carrier pictured at sea - China Facing Neighboring Anger

WASHINGTON - A satellite image of China's first aircraft carrier has been captured while the vessel was undergoing sea trials in the Yellow Sea, a US company said on its website Thursday.

The 300-metre ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier, was photographed on December 8, said Colorado-based DigitalGlobe Inc, and an analyst from the company spotted it when reviewing images five days later.

The Beijing government said earlier this month that the carrier had started its second sea trial after undergoing refurbishment and testing.

The ship underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China's widening naval reach amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), which is believed to be rich in oil and gas and is claimed by several countries, has dominated such disputes involving China, leading to run-ins with rival claimants including Vietnam and the Philippines.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on December 7 urged the navy to "accelerate its transformation and modernization" and "make extended preparations for military combat" to safeguard national security.

Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the Soviet ship, the Varyag, and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier poses no threat to its neighbors and will be used mainly for training and research purposes.

But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.

China only provided the first official acknowledgment of the carrier in June when Chen Bingde, the nation's top military official, gave an interview to a Hong Kong newspaper.

Nepal & Myanmar Rejects China, SKorea and Japan hard Stance against China

China is facing increasingly hardened diplomatic attitudes from its neighboring countries, with four – Nepal, Myanmar, South Korea and Japan – allowing protests at varying degrees of what is considered Chinese belligerence.

A South Korean coastguard official was stabbed to death at sea after the Korean coastguard intercepted a Chinese fishing vessel in its waters in an incident the South Korean media have talked up as "Chinese Piracy at Sea." The Chinese vessel's captain has been charged with murder and 17 Chinese fishermen have been detained. The situation further deteriorated between the two countries after what sounded like a gunshot was fired at a window of the South Korean Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon.

Tokyo is expected to lodge protests after China sent their new, and largest 3,900-ton armed patrol ship on its maiden voyage to islands and areas considered disputed between China and Japan, including several offshore oil and gas fields and various Sino-Japanese joint development zones.

Also, in highly unusual moves, Premier Wen Jiabao's scheduled trips to Nepal and Myanmar next week have both been cancelled. Myanmar, which recently hosted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently cancelled a Chinese project to build a Dam on the Irrawaddy River. No explanation has been given for the Nepal cancellation.

China has been more assertive recently in refusing to give ground over disputed border areas, and appears to have been playing too hard to gain projects through use of financial and trade muscle. The Chinese efforts to extend territorial land borders with India, where it claims the State of Arunachal Pradesh in its entirety, as well as parts of Ladakh and Kashmir, have long grated with India. Meanwhile, attempts to claim the whole of the South China Sea, in addition to parts of the East China Sea and Yellow Sea have been stepped up. 2point6billion learns that Chinese Embassy officials around the world have been paying particular attention to antique dealers in maps and similar cartographic relics, buying up whatever they can find, presumably in order to prove long held claims or to destroy examples that do not fit with their stated aims. Officials from nations affected by such territorial disputes may wish to consider the importance of such items concerning both cartographic and anecdotal evidence in ancient and historic documents.

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