CHINA TO OPEN DISPUTED PARACEL ISLANDS TO TOURISM

Daily Telegraph, London, on April 7, 2013, published an AFP report that China is to open disputed South China Sea islands up to tourism, a move likely to inflame a long-running territorial row with its neighbours. Excerpts below:

The plans to allow tourists to visit the Paracel Islands before the May Day holiday is the latest stage in Beijing’s development of the territory, which has previously angered Vietnam and caused concern in Washington.

Vietnam and China have a long-standing territorial row over the Paracel Islands.

The plan to allow cruise tours follows rapid development of infrastructure in a new city – Sansha – along with the establishment of an army garrison on one of the Paracels last year.

The report quoted shipbuilder Haihang Group Corp Ltd as saying its cruise ship was ready to take almost 2,000 passengers on a tour of the islands. A second cruise ship was being built by Hainan Harbor and Shipping Holdings Co, the report added.

A city, Sansha, was established last summer to administer more than 200 islets, sandbanks and reefs in the South China Sea, which also include the Spratly Islands and Macclesfield Bank.

All the territory within the 800,000 square miles of waters under Sansha’s “control” is disputed. The South China Sea is also home to vital shipping lanes and substantial proven and estimated oil and gas deposits.

Located on Yongxing Island, Sansha is home to about 1,000 people, mainly involved in the fishing industry.

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