Construction of China’s first full-sized aircraft carrier is well under way, according to satellite images obtained and analysed by a US think tank.
The images from April, provided to Reuters by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, reveal considerable recent activity during the last six months on a large vessel at the Jiangnan shipyard outside Shanghai.
China has not formally confirmed it is building a third carrier, despite recent hints in state media, and the timing and extent of its carrier programme remain state secrets.
The Pentagon said last week that work had begun, but no images have emerged until now.
Both Asian and Western militaries, and regional security analysts, are seeking information on the carrier, which is expected to be China`s first large, modern platform capable of leading a full range of strike group operations.
The effort to build a large, locally designed carrier is seen as a core part of China`s extensive military modernisation drive. A series of recent Reuters Special Reports showed how that effort is challenging decades of US strategic superiority in East Asia.