BEIJING • Up to eight Chinese ships will offer cruises to the South China Sea over the next five years, a state-run newspaper said yesterday, as Beijing continues to promote tourism in the disputed waters.
Sanya International Cruise Development - a joint venture between Cosco Shipping, China National Travel Service (HK) Group and China Communications Construction - plans to buy between five and eight ships, the official China Daily reported.
It will also build four cruise liner docks in Sanya, a Chinese resort city on the southern island province of Hainan, the daily added.
Sanya International Cruise chairman Liu Junli said the company is already operating the "Dream of the South China Sea"cruise ship and plans to add another two cruise ships by next year, the report said.
The ships will travel to the Crescent group of islands - a part of the Paracels. The firm is also "considering a cruise around the South China Sea at the appropriate time", the report added. Hotels, villas and shops will all be built on the Crescent group, the daily said.
It is not clear if foreigners will be allowed on these cruises or if they will be allowed to visit China's holdings in the South China Sea.
China claims 90 per cent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all lay claim to parts of the sea, through which global trade worth about US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) passes yearly.
Some of the countries competing to cement their rival claims have encouraged a growing civilian presence on disputed islands in the South China Sea. The first cruises from China to the Paracel Islands were launched by Hainan Strait Shipping in 2013. Beijing has also said it wants to build Maldives-style resorts in the South China Sea.
China has refused to recognise a ruling by an arbitration tribunal at The Hague that invalidated its vast claims in the South China Sea.
Separately, Japan's defence White Paper, which is expected to be approved by the Japanese Cabinet next month, will warn that Beijing's militarisation of the disputed waters is making its territorial claims a fait accompli, according to the Kyodo news agency.
The White Paper is expected to say that China's activities in the South China Sea could be seen as high-handed and unilateral actions to change the status quo, according to an outline of the paper obtained by Kyodo News.
The paper is also expected to devote a chapter to the country's new security legislation, which came into effect in March. It enables Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence, or come to the aid of friendly nations under attack, even if Japan itself is not attacked, reported Kyodo.