China has set up a tsunami alert center in the South China Sea, the head of the nation’s maritime regulator said yesterday, in Beijing’s latest effort to bolster its jurisdiction in the disputed waters.
China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims.
The US has voiced concerns about China’s assertive pursuit of territory in one of the world’s busiest trade routes.
The tsunami alert center is under construction, but has already begun initial operations, Chinese State Oceanic Administration Director Wang Hong (王宏) told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual meeting of parliament.
“We have already begun issuing tsunami alerts to the international community, including countries on the periphery of the South China Sea,” Wang said.
“Cooperation in the South China Sea is one of our important focuses. We hope to collaborate with South China Sea countries and create a peaceful and harmonious sea,” Wang said.
He did not give details on the center’s location.
China’s increasingly assertive claims in the South China Sea, along with its rapidly modernizing navy, have rattled nerves across the region.
Beijing has said that its operations in the sea, including land reclamation work on disputed reefs and islands, are largely intended to bolster civilian research, search and rescue and maritime security and will benefit other countries.
Nonetheless, China says it is entitled to “limited defensive facilities” on its territory.
It has dismissed reports about surface-to-air missiles placed on the disputed Woody Island (Yongxing Island, 永興島) — the largest of the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) — as media hype.
Taiwan also claims the Paracels.
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