China to open disputed Paracel islands to tourism

 
Aerial view of Sansha city in the Paracels (July 2012) China opened an administrative centre on the largest Paracel island last year

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China is to begin running tourism cruises to a chain of disputed islands in the South China Sea by next month, state media reports.

The Xinhua news agency said tourists would live on board ships, as the largest island has only one hotel and no fresh water.

The islands, known in China as Xisha but the Paracels elsewhere, are claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has controlled them since a short war with South Vietnam in 1974.

In recent years tensions have been rising over the over-lapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, amid a more assertive stance from China.

Analysts view the latest move as an another step in China's battle to demonstrate that the potentially oil-rich area is Chinese.

Port project

Xinhua quoted the Haihang Group ship company as saying that a 47,000-tonne ship, capable of accommodating nearly 2,000 passengers, was ready to sail and that another was being built.

The first tours would take place ahead of the May Day holiday, said Tan Li, the executive vice governor of Hainan province, just north of the islands.

He said tourists would eat and sleep on the ship but visit land for sightseeing, Xinhua reports, and that the currently limited facilities would be improved by the addition of more ports and sanitation infrastructure.

China claims a U-shaped swathe of the sea that extends well into what Unclos (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants.

Last year, Beijing set up a local government office on the largest island, Yongxing - known in English as Woody Island - to oversee its territorial claims, a move which angered Vietnam.

And in March this year, Vietnam said China had fired on one of its fishing boats in the area, setting it alight.

China said the Vietnamese boats were illegally fishing in what it says is its territory when the incident occurred on 20 March, and that it had fired flares not weapons.

Last year, the Philippines and China engaged in a lengthy stand-off over another disputed area, the Scarborough shoal, in a spat that left diplomatic ties very strained.

The South China Sea, seen to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves, has been a source of maritime conflict between several countries.

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 208.

    Is this issue hosted here to divert our attention away from the new BBC head Hall doing nothing so far to clean up within the BBC and dismiss those involved in previous scandals?

    This is not an issue that involves Britain or BBC viewers in any way whatsoever so lets get back to what has not happened at the BBC. Only sideways shuffles and magnanmous packages.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 207.

    So, Mr Xi uses his trip to Hainan Island to ironically stamp his authority on the NK situation by stating..., "so as to turn the global village into a big stage for common development rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other"....Hmmm...this is how China does business. Say no more.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 206.

    Is this not what Rome did in its last 100 years before it fell.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 205.

    Maybe it is good to remember here: The Philippines are under direct US military assistance guarantees as are Taiwan and South Korea. Given the current tension this is something that North Korea could seek to exploit. It is after all in their interest to loosen the ties between the US and China. If you ask me: Asia is riddled with territorial disputes and instability: Wait till recession hits hard.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 204.

    @zippo
    ooh... whats this...a country claiming islands that are miles away to be theirs...? sounds very similar to GB and the Falkland Islands to me....

    or Denmark and Greenland, The US and Guam, France and French Guiana. YOUR POINT PLEASE!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 203.

    This is not News,China laid claim over a year ago or more.Just Beeb stirring it up, and predictably finding lots of biters.
    Only thing out of the ordinary, is with a non-Euro/Anglo Country daring to infringe on our predatory turf.
    How sensible was it to pretend we would dominate this World forever? If it wasn't China,it would've been someone else.Israel,Arabs? Nothing stops Evolution.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 202.

    China does what China wants. No real power block is willing to confront the new ultimate power of the world. It's as if the western world and all free democratic nations are afraid of China. China's world order is one where China tells others including the United States, and Europe what to do.. China is now running the new world order, but the open democratic world doesn't even know it.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 201.

    China is using their power to bully neighbour countries around them. It is completely unacceptable of what they are claiming as their territory. When the ASEAN countries tried to bring this case to the international court, China felt scared and keep threatening those countries to keep this conflict as mutual topic, not international. Shame on China, we should never allow this to happen.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 200.

    Malaysian boundary some mention is purely due to UK bartering Sarawak to Malaysia,British Born Citizens & their property who just happen to be brown.Predation is the accepted Euro/Anglo norm,up to and including Libya,Syria.Only diff here is that we are not in-charge.
    Sarawak was a British "Protectorate" and as such Exempt from Exploitation, but that did not stop us selling them out.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 199.

    ooh... whats this...a country claiming islands that are miles away to be theirs...?

    sounds very similar to GB and the Falkland Islands to me....

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 198.

    In a quick glance, China's "U-curve" territorial claims look funny and arrogant. The latest move is a sign of neo-imperialism.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 197.

    Yes it would be great if they would share, ask, lease, or even buy. But greed don't work that way. I like the Trojan Horse, every ones military should keep their eyes open. There is just two much going on over there for us not to watch this very close. Who thinks like this in 2013, Bully is the true word.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 196.

    The question is, where will the claims end? Once it has domination over current claims, what's next? Very worrying circumstances that need to be addressed by the UN before violence ensues. Laws of the sea and UN territorial boundaries need to be respected.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 195.

    We should copy this idea for the Falklands and St Helena!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 194.

    N Korea making a lot of distracting noise as Chinas allies may well be a smokescreen for this land grab.

    Best to do this while the world needs Chins to calm their N Korean allies down than in normal times.

    Welcome to the world of geopolitics people. China are Late to the party but the uk France USA etc did this sort if thing for centuries and china, like a lot of things, is simply copying it!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 193.

    China is doing this to try and galvanise public support for a government that is, little-by-little, losing support, under the assumption that the rest of the world will begrudgingly accept it rather than make this whole thing messy.

    Unfortunately, all that needs to happen for this to turn very messy indeed is for another, equally mad government (i.e. Vietnam) to call China's bluff...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 192.

    Is it just coincidence that they would start something like this when tensions are so high in the area. There must be some other tactic evolving they are disguising. By the map shown, no one in there right mind could agree with china. Remember china wanting to buy property in Greenland, or was it Iceland for a vacation resort, WHAT ! , why would you do that ? Or wind turbines.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 191.

    I do not agree with China's claim,but it is still not in the league of Brit Marines forceably evicting whole Population of Diego Garcia,dumping them as Refugees in Mauritous,to give their Country as a gift for a US Base & Clandestine prison.Then unilaterally declaring a Marine Sanctuary to circumvent our High Court ruling for Return,while US Base remains.China is simply following our precedent.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 190.

    China is following exact pattern US imposed on NK,and which all now objecting accepted.Having benefitted from Might is Right for so many decades,it is a tad late to be looking for Rule-Changes just as the pendulum swings.Unfortunately,10 miles off NK Shore is the accepted norm,up to and incl War-Games by Fgn Mil & Friends from Thousands of miles away. Address of Peace is Justice.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 189.

    China's great territory grab around Asia as in Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, Baekdu Mountain, Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island, East Turkestan, Inner Mongol, Jammu and Kashmir, Matsu Islands, Paracel Islands, Penghu Islands, Pratas Island, Quemoy, Scarborough Shoal, Senkaku Islands, Socotra Rock, Spratly Islands, Taiwan, Tibet, Trans-Karakoram Tract, Zhenbao Island, etc!!!

 

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