‘South China Sea airfield to boost public service’

Beijing, Jan 5 (IANS) A newly-built airfield on a disputed island in the South China Sea will help ensure flight and navigation safety for airplanes and ships in the area and greatly improve the ability of marine salvagers, a Chinese official has said.

China has finished building the airfield on Yongshu Jiao in the Nansha Islands and conducted a test flight which has received widespread criticism, the Global Times reported.

The South China Sea has long been a very important seaway connecting China and the rest of the world, as well as a sea corridor between the Pacific and Indian Ocean, said Pan Wei, chief engineer of China Rescue and Salvage under the transport ministry on Monday.

“The severe shortage of navigation safety facilities, emergency rescue forces and equipment to deal with oil spills in the South China Sea has impeded the navigation security and economic and social development in the area,” Pan said.

The lighthouses on Huayang and Chigua reefs, which went into operation in October 2015, have filled a gap in civil navigation facilities and significantly improved navigation safety in the South China Sea, the official said.

“The lighthouses provide vessels from various countries with sailing directions, safety information, emergency assistance and other public services, reducing navigation risks and marine accidents,” Pan said.

China will continue promoting the building of emergency response and rescue facilities in an effort to shoulder the international obligations of search and rescue operations, marine environmental protection, disaster prevention and reduction, and navigation safety in the South China Sea, the official said.

The airfield on Yongshu Jiao of China’s Nansha Islands will enhance the navigation safety in the busy sea lane.

Nearly 40 percent of global trade is carried through the South China Sea, which sees the passage of at least 40,000 ships annually.

The airfield on Yongshu Jiao will significantly reduce the travel time from the Chinese mainland to Nansha Islands, changing the old reliance on vessels for transportation and rescue.

According to Pan, the airfield will also provide more convenient transportation for the residents on the islands and the personnel who are safeguarding the islands and reefs.

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