Beijing showed off its first aircraft carrier even though it's only for training and testing at this point.
In a ceremony attended by the country's top leaders, China put its first aircraft carrier into service Tuesday, a move intended to signal its growing military might as tensions escalate among Beijing and its neighbors over islands in nearby seas.
Officials said the carrier, a discarded vessel bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refurbished by China, would protect national sovereignty, an issue that has become a touchstone of the government's dispute with Japan over ownership of islands in the East China Sea.
But despite the triumphant tone of the launch, which was watched by President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and despite rousing assessments by Chinese military experts about the importance of the carrier, the vessel will be used only for training and testing for the foreseeable future.
The mark "16" emblazoned on the carrier's side indicates that it is limited to training, military experts said. China does not have planes capable of landing on the carrier, the experts said.