This file photo shows a part of the city of Sansha on Woody island in the disputed Paracel chain, which China now considers part of its Hainan Province. (By AFP)
China seeks to transform some of the islands in the disputed South China Sea into pleasure-trip destinations for tourists.
A senior Chinese official told China Daily on Friday that Beijing will turn an area around Woody Island in the Paracels chain into a “major tourist attraction comparable to the Maldives.”
“We will develop some islands and reefs to accommodate a select number of tourists,” said Xiao Jie, the mayor of Sansha city. He said there will be sea plane trips, island weddings, fishing and diving trips.
Around 16,000 tourists paid visits to the Paracel Islands last year, the daily said.
Beijing launched cruises to the South China Sea on a trial basis in 2013. According to Xiao, the cruises had been very popular, Chinwith tickets hard to come by.
A second cruise program would also start soon, according to the report, which said there would also be regular flights to the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The sea has become a source of tension between China, the US, and some other regional countries, who are seeking control of trade routes and mineral deposits there.
The US accuses China of attempting to take advantage of the situation and gradually asserting control over the region.
China, however, rejects the allegations and says the US is interfering in regional affairs, deliberately stirring tensions in the South China Sea.