China formally entered its first aircraft carrier into service on Tuesday, underscoring its ambitions to be a leading Asian naval power, although the ship is not expected to carry a full complement of planes or be ready for combat for some time.

The Defense Ministry’s announcement had been long expected and was not directly linked to current tensions with Japan over a disputed group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

In a brief notice on its website, the ministry said the carrier’s commissioning significantly boosted the navy’s combat capabilities and its ability to cooperate in responding to natural disasters and other non-traditional threats.

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