China dredges channels near disputed islands as Beijing ‘asserts stance on South China Sea’

China is dredging navigation channels in a disputed area of the South China Sea in a move analysts say shows Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance over its claims to sovereignty in the region.

Xinhua reported yesterday that up to 1.7km of channels had been dredged around Drummond Island, known as Jinqing in Chinese.

The island, which is about 21 sq km, is one of the disputed Paracel Islands, which China calls the Xisha Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam, which calls them the Hoang Sa Islands.

“The new passages will help the way fishermen operate and provide them with more convenient living conditions on the islands,” Jiang Weiquan, who is a director of the management committee for the islands, said.

A Chinese oil rig operated in near the Paracel Islands for more than two months this summer, sparking anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam in May. There were also a series of clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels in the area.

Xu Liping, an expert on China’s relations in Southeast Asia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing would continue expanding navigation channels, making it easier for law-enforcement vessels to patrol and to move supplies around that area of the South China Sea.

Full article: China dredges channels near disputed islands as Beijing ‘asserts stance on South China Sea’ (South China Morning Post)

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