This aerial view of the city of Sansha on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of Hainan province. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
CHINA’S newest city might appear to be a tranquil outpost in the South China Sea, but the beaches and palm trees of Sansha are at the heart of a growing territorial dispute.
The so-called “city” is on Yongxing, or Woody Island, one of many small islands, reefs and shoals that make up the disputed Paracel Islands spreading over the northern part of the sea.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and possesses varying degrees of proven and estimated oil and gas deposits.
The formation of an administration in Sansha, which will be responsible for China’s interests in the South China Sea is just its latest salvo.
Taiwan and ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia all make rival claims on areas of the sea, while the United States is also watching China’s increased assertiveness closely.
A US State Department spokesman said in a statement Friday that Washington was “concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea”.
The establishment of an administration in Sansha and a new military garrison there “runs counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region”, he added.
China reacted swiftly. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the US remarks sent “a seriously wrong signal, which is not conducive to the efforts safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific region”.