China has announced that its first aircraft carrier has started its first tests on the sea.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency said the carrier left the Dalian port in the northeast Liaoning Province early today.
The carrier is described as an old but unfinished Soviet vessel, christened the "Varyag," that China bought from Ukraine more than a decade ago and has been working to refit.
The Xinhua report said refitting and test work would continue on the carrier, which is about 300 meters long, when it returns from what is expected to be a short sea trial.
China has said it hopes to use the refurbished carrier for research and training -- an indication, analysts say, that China is likely planning to build its own fleet of aircraft carriers.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "We would welcome any explanation that China would like to give for needing this kind of equipment."
compiled from agency reports