Chinese media reports say the country is planning to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier capable of remaining at sea for long durations, in what would be a major upgrade for its increasingly formidable navy.
The China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. issued a statement this week saying initial work had begun on the ship, the Communist Party newspaper Global Times and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post said Thursday.
The company's statement Tuesday, which the newspapers said also mentioned the development of new types of nuclear submarines and other sophisticated technologies, was a rare revelation about China's long-term naval expansion plans.
On Thursday, however, no mention of nuclear carriers or other such technologies could be found on its website. The Post said the original statement had been replaced with a new one.
The Global Times report quoted the CSIC statement as saying the company saw the need to "accelerate the realization of nuclear powered aircraft carriers, new-type nuclear submarines, quiet-type submarines" and various other sophisticated naval warfare technologies.
The goal was to "provide high-quality weapon systems for the navy's strategic transition to a deep blue high seas force by 2025," the newspaper quoted the statement as saying.
A man who answered the phone Thursday at the company's news office said it was "not a convenient time to respond" to questions about the report. There was no immediate response to questions faxed to the company.
CSIC was responsible for extensively refurbishing China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which arrived as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine, and for building the country's sole domestically produced carrier, which is expected to enter service later this year. Both are conventionally fueled and must take on regular deliveries of oil.
Nuclear carriers such as the U.S. Navy's Nimitz class can operate for 20 years without refueling.
China has the world's largest navy in terms of numbers of ships, although it lags behind the U.S. in technology and combat capabilities.