China to start civilian flights to Woody Island in disputed Paracel chain within a year: Xinhua

A satellite image of Woody Island on Feb 14, 2016 and Feb 3, 2016.
A satellite image of Woody Island on Feb 14, 2016 and Feb 3, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China expects to begin civilian flights to and from Sansha city on Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island, in the disputed South China Sea within a year, the official Xinhua News Agency reports, citing the city's party secretary Xiao Jie.

China's State Council in 2012 approved the establishment of the prefecture-level Sansha city to administer the Paracel and Spratly Islands, parts of which are also occupied or claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Woody Island is the largest island in the Paracels, with an area of 2.1 sq km.

Last month, Fox News reported satellite images showed two batteries of eight HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers and a radar system on Woody Island.

China's island-building programme in the South China Sea and its movement there of military assets is causing friction with other claimant states and the US China has reclaimed 3,000 acres of land in the South China Sea over two years, warned US military planes and ships from going near areas it controls, and its ships have clashed with Vietnamese and Philippine fishing boats.

Every inhabited island in the area now has desalination equipment, Mr Xiao said, according to Xinhua.

Woody Island has a 1,000 tonne-per-day desalination plant and a hospital and a school have also been opened.