China will open disputed islands to tourists
This month, China will allow tourists to book cruises to the Paracel Islands, a cluster of 40 islets, outcrops and reefs in the South China Sea. Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the Paracels as their own.
China¬†will this month start allowing tourists to visit the¬†Paracel Islands, one of a group of disputed islets and reefs in the¬†South¬†China¬†Sea, state news agency¬†Xinhua¬†said, a move likely to irk rival claimant¬†Vietnam.¬†
Hainan¬†Harbour and Shipping Holdings Co is building another cruise ship.
"Tourists will eat and sleep on the cruise ships and can land on the islands for sightseeing" ahead of Labour Day on May 1, Tan Li, vice governor of¬†China's southernmost island province of¬†Hainan, told¬†Xinhua¬†late on Saturday.
There is only one hotel with 56 rooms on Woody Island, the largest island in the¬†Paracels, the agency said.
Last year,¬†China¬†approved the formal establishment of a military garrison in Sansha city, which is located on Woody Island. The city administers the mostly uninhabited islands in the¬†South¬†China¬†Sea¬†which¬†China¬†claims.
Tan said local authorities will build more supply ships and infrastructure in Sansha, including ports, water supply and sewage treatment facilities.
China¬†took full control of the¬†Paracels¬†- a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs - in 1974 after a naval showdown with the then¬†South Vietnam, and there have been incidents ever since.¬†Taiwan¬†also claims the¬†Paracels.
Vietnam,¬†Taiwan,¬†Brunei,¬†Malaysia¬†and the¬†Philippines¬†also claim other parts of the¬†South¬†China¬†Sea, including the Spratly Islands.¬†China¬†has a separate dispute with¬†Japan¬†in the East¬†China¬†Sea.
China¬†is in an increasingly angry dispute with its neighbours over the claims to parts of the potentially oil and gas-rich¬†South¬†China¬†Sea.¬†China¬†lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.