Beijing Eying New Link to S. China Sea

Beijing Eying New Link to S. China SeaBeijing Eying New Link to S. China Sea

Chinese authorities plan to start a second cruise ship link to the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, state media reported on Monday, in a move that may irk Vietnam, which also claims the islets.

China began cruises on the Coconut Princess on a trial basis from the southern island province of Hainan in 2013. More than 10,000 tourists have taken the trip so far, according to the official China Daily, Reuters reported.

Officials hope a second ship will be in operation before the end of the year and that more islands can be opened up for visits, the report said.

Those include Woody Island, where the Chinese government seat for administering the Paracels is located.

The deployment of a Chinese oil rig near the Paracels last year sparked a standoff with Vietnam and anti-Chinese riots. Taiwan also claims the Paracels.

China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade a year.