China's first domestically developed aircraft carrier began sea trials today, official media reported, a historic step in the country's mission to modernise its military to beef up its naval presence in the disputed regional waters.
The 50,000-metric tonne vessel left a shipyard of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in Liaoning province around 7 am (local time) against thick fog and with assistance from several tugboats, before navigating into the sea using its own propulsion
The vessel will become the country's second aircraft carrier, and the first to be entirely built and designed inside of China, when it joins the navy sometime before 2020.
The Navy said in a statement that the trial aims to demonstrate the reliability and capability of the ship's propulsion systems.
The still-unnamed carrier was launched this time last year but since then has been undergoing fitting of weapons and other systems and has not yet entered service.
China launched the new aircraft after it commissioned the first carrier the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet Union-made vessel in 2012.
Though Liaoning has become operational, it is being mostly used for research and improvements for the new carriers China plans to build.