China's first ever aircraft carrier, called Varyag, was released Wednesday morning local time for a sea trial.
Varyag will then return from its trial and continue refit and test work, reported Xinhua News, China's official press agency.
China earlier said the aircraft carrier will be mainly used for scientific research and training, reported NYTimes. However, the emphasis of the Xinhua statement on Wednesday was defense.
"The possession of the vessel is vital to China, as the country has vast territorial waters, which induces grave responsibility of protection," stated Xinhua.
"With the expansion of globalization and its ever-expanding openness to the outside world, China's national interests have become increasingly interconnected with that of the whole world," added Xinhua.
Specifically, it cited the need to secure the flow of materials and goods in and out of China. Without this security, China would not be able to import key commodities like oil and sell its manufactured goods to the world.
Xinhua also evoked China's past sufferings at the sea to justify the existence of the aircraft carrier.
"China has more than 18,000 kilometers of coast line and three million square kilometers of territorial waters. From the Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China suffered more than 470 offenses and invasions that came from the seas," stated Xinhua.
Moreover, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, India, Brazil, and even Thailand have at least one aircraft carrier, so China's move is hardly unprecedented, stated Xinhua.
The Varyag was initially constructed by the Soviet Union. Upon the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991, the ship was stripped of its weapons and engine at its Ukrainian shipyard and sold to a Chinese company in 1998. In 2004, the Chinese military began refitting it to be an aircraft carrier, reported NYTimes.