Pentagon: Chinese carrier likely to join naval fleet in 2019

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says China's first home-built aircraft carrier is likely to enter into service this year.

In a report Thursday on Chinese military power, the Pentagon said this fits with Beijing's goal of developing a global force that can conduct military operations at expanding distances from the Chinese mainland.

The only aircraft carrier in China's current naval fleet was bought as a mostly empty hull from Ukraine in 2002 and commissioned in 2012. China says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes.

The U.S. Navy has 11 aircraft carriers -- the most of any nation. Earlier this year the Trump administration asked Congress to permit the early retirement of one carrier, but this week President Donald Trump withdrew that request.

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