In March, a Chinese shipping expert, Lan Yun, told state media its first major voyage could take between one and three months and see the Liaoning reach “waters near Japan’s Okinawa islands and even Guam”.

The high-profile announcement came in a series of reports about the aircraft carrier, timed to coincide with the 64th anniversary of China’s navy next Tuesday.

“The navy has to protect the security of the country and its economic interests,” the China Daily reported in a front-page article headlined: “China’s ocean-going giant.”