China to build Antarctic airfield: report

BEIJING (AFP) - China is to build its own airfield in Antarctica, media reported Monday, as Beijing continues to expand its footprint in the most remote corners of the globe.

The airstrip will be built to assist China's four research stations on the frozen continent, the Beijing Evening News said, without giving details such as runway length or capacity.

"China has built four Antarctic research stations, but does not have its own fixed-wing airport," the newspaper said.

Researchers "must rely on maritime transport", it said, which was "seriously affecting the ability of scientific exploration".

The facility will be built near China's Zhongshan Station, it said without citing a source.

Zhongshan is on the Antarctic coast near the Larsemann Hills, south-west of Australia.

State media said in April that the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) icebreaker had completed China's 30th expedition to Antarctica, three decades after the first Chinese mission to the continent.

The ship will leave Shanghai on Thursday for another expedition south that will develop the airport plans, the Beijing Evening News said.

About 30 countries, all members of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, operate research bases in Antarctica. The pact aims to reduce the likelihood of confrontations over territorial disputes there.