China building school in disputed area

June 16, 2014 - 8:39:59 am

BEIJING: China is building a school on a remote island in the South China Sea to serve the children of military personnel and others, expanding the rugged outpost it created two years ago to strengthen claims to disputed waters and islands.

China established the settlement of Sansha — which Beijing designates a “city” and has a permanent population of 1,443 — on tiny Yongxing island to administer hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of water where China wants to strengthen its control over the potentially oil-rich territory.

Vietnam, the Philippines and the US criticized Beijing for establishing Sansha, saying it risked escalating regional tensions. The island is about 350km south of China’s southernmost province, in the Paracel chain, which is also claimed by Vietnam.

The Sansha government said in a statement on its website that construction on the school started on Saturday and was expected to take 18 months.

It said there were about 40 children of school age on Yongxing Island, and the school could also educate the children of police, army personnel and civilians stationed on the islands, some of whom had to stay with grandparents in far-off hometowns.

When China created Sansha in July 2012, the outpost had a post office, bank, supermarket, hospital and a population of about 1,000. By December, it had a permanent population of 1,443, which can sometimes swell by 2,000, according to the Sansha government.

Now it has an airport, hotel, library and five main roads, mobile phone service coverage and a 24-hour satellite TV station. It also has its own supply ship that brings in food, water, construction materials as well as people who live and work on the island.

The Philippine government, on the other hand, brushed aside fresh statements from Chinese diplomats in the UN criticizing the arbitration case filed against Beijing.

China’s representative to the UN has accused the Philippines and Vietnam of making “groundless accusations” in their efforts to reassert their territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Deputy Permanent Representative Wang Min issued the statement during a recent meeting on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in New York even as he maintained that China will not abide by any arbitration ruling as formally sought by the Philippines to settle its claim over islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Wang said the Philippines has attempted to illegally occupy some of the Nansha islands (Spratly Islands). The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines will continue to follow the rule of law in asserting its claim over the West Philippine Sea.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose cited several instances of intrusions and encroachments done by China in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine Star