China Plans Base Station on Disputed Spratly Islands

China Plans Base Station on Disputed Spratly IslandsChina Plans Base Station on Disputed Spratly Islands

A Chinese government bureau is planning a base station for an advanced rescue ship on the disputed Spratly Islands, state media reported on Monday.

This is in line with China’s continuing push to develop civilian and military infrastructure in the contentious region.

“The ship, which would carry drones and underwater robots, is set to be deployed in the second half of the year,” said Chen Xingguang, political commissar of the ship, which is under the South China Sea Rescue Bureau of the Ministry of Transport, according to the official China Daily, Reuters reported.

The civilian bureau has 31 ships and four helicopters conducting rescue missions in the South China Sea, and officials from the department told the China Daily they work with the military on such efforts.

Officials said the rescue ship base station would enable rescue forces to aid fishing boats in trouble, and shorten the distance they need to travel.

It is unclear on which island the ship will be based, but China has carried out land reclamation and construction on several islands in the Spratly Archipelago, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands, while Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased US naval patrols and exercises in Asia.

China has said it plans to continue building civilian facilities in the region to benefit itself and other countries, as well as “necessary military facilities”. Analysts say an airstrip China is building on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys could be used for both civilian and military jets.