Beijing sets up tsunami centre in South China Sea

Fiery Cross reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on Sept 3, 2015.
Fiery Cross reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, on Sept 3, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has set up a tsunami alert centre in the South China Sea, the head of the country's maritime regulator said, in Beijing's latest effort to bolster its jurisdiction in the disputed waters.

The centre is under construction but has already begun operations, Mr Wang Hong, chief of the State Oceanic Administration, told reporters on the sidelines of China's annual meeting of Parliament yesterday.

China claims most of the energy resources-rich waters through which about US$5 trillion (S$6.9 trillion) in shipborne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

"We have already begun issuing tsunami alerts to the international community, including countries on the periphery of the South China Sea," Mr Wang said. He did not give details on the centre's location.

China's increasingly assertive claims in the South China Sea, along with its rapidly modernising navy, have rattled nerves around the region and also led the United States to voice concern.

Beijing has said 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, which will benefit other countries. Nonetheless, China says it is entitled to "limited defensive facilities" on its territory.

The US has warned that China is seeking to establish a level of de facto control over the South China Sea that threatens freedom of navigation for international shipping.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing sets up tsunami centre in South China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe