BEIJING – China says it is opening up a disputed island chain to tourism with one hotel in another step in its battle to demonstrate that the potentially oil-rich territory is Chinese.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported today that people will be allowed to go on cruise tours to the islands known as Xisha in China and Paracel elsewhere by next month.
Vietnam also claims the islets, sandbanks and reefs southeast of China’s Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
Hainan’s executive vice governor, Tan Li, told a news conference Saturday that tourists will eat and sleep on cruise ships and land on the islands for sightseeing, according to Xinhua.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its island groups, while Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries claim some areas. The disputes occasionally erupt into open confrontation. The islands are amid some of the world’s busiest commercial sea lanes, along with rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits.
Last year China created a city administration on the largest island, Yongxing, to oversee hundreds of thousands of square miles of water where it wants to strengthen its control. Vietnam said then that China’s actions violated international law. The Philippines, which disputes another island chain farther south over which China’s Sansha city also claims jurisdiction, doesn’t recognize the city.
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