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A Chinese company Chong Lot Travel Agency bought the Soviet-made Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier VARYAG (Viking), lacking an engine and a rudder, from Ukraine for US$20 million in 1998, and wanted to tow it to Macau from the Black Sea and convert it into a floating casino.

Construction of the Varyag began in 1985. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ownership of the carrier was transfered to newly independent Ukraine. Ukraine halted construction in 1992, when the vessel was about 70% complete. The total estimated cost of the ship was about US$2.4 billion, and more than US$500 million was needed to complete her construction.

Chong Lot was established by the ex-PLA officer Xu Zengping (alias Cheng Zhen-shu) and Chong Lap-cheung in August 1997 in Macau. Chong Lot was in fact a subsidiary of a Hong Kong company, Chinluck Holdings.

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Turkish authorities prevented the Varyag from passing through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits for fifteen months. Turkey argued that the Varyag would pose too great danger to bridges, palaces and homes in Istanbul.

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On April 1, 2001, a U.S. EP-3 spy plane flying along the coast of China over the South China Sea encountered two Chinese J-8 fighter jets and collided with one of them. The EP-3 crew managed to perform an emergency landing on Hainan Island, while the Chinese fighter pilot and his plane were lost. U.S. Ambassador Joseph Prueher delivered a letter of regret (the letter of the two sorries) expressing sorrow over the collision to the Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. The 24 crew members of the EP-3 were subsequently permitted to leave China. On July 3, 2001, the disassembled EP-3 was transported back to the U.S. by Russian AN-124 cargo plane.

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