China to setup maritime observatory in disputed region of ‘South China Sea’

Beijing : Even as the construction of artificial islands by China in the ‘South China Sea’ is proving to be a matter of dispute, China has started preparations to build an observatory in this oceanic territory. The concerned authorities claim that the observatory is for the study of this region, which is enriched with mineral resources. Meanwhile, China’s news agency has published a news report that China has invited 66 scientists from around 13 nations for the research in this observatory and mining has commenced in the concerned areas.

According to the information provided by Wang Pinxian, a scientist at the ‘Chinese Academy of Science’ (CAS), a research group in China, the observatory will be built on the seabed of the South China Sea. The ocean floor of ‘South and East China Sea’ will be studied in this observatory. For this, assistance will be taken from Shanghai based ‘Tongji University’ and ‘Institute of Acoustics’, informed Pinxian. He also claimed that after the creation of this observatory, China can compete internationally in this field.

Although, the Chinese scientist has released information about this observatory, he has not clarified about the location in the ‘South China Sea’ where the said observatory will be built. However, in the information about the observatory, published in the Chinese state daily, it has been said that the study of physical, chemical and geological forces under the ocean would be easier. This research will be utilised for other purposes also, stated the Chinese state daily.

Though the construction of this observatory is still under process presently, a squad of 33 scientists has stationed itself in ‘South China Sea’ since past 3 weeks. It is said that the squad is inspecting the mining operation in the concerned oceanic region. Scientists from the US, France, Italy and Japan have participated in this squad. According to the information published by a Chinese news agency, an excavation of nearly 3770 meters below the sea level has been carried out in the presence of these scientists at a certain location and the extracts from this location have been taken for examination by the scientists. As per the preliminary tests, a certain layer from this extract is claimed to be almost 8 million years old. Soon, a second excavation will be carried out, at a depth of nearly 3 to 4 thousand meters.

China has been trying since past few years to setup an ‘Observatory’ on the floor of ‘South China Sea’. About four months back, the Chinese government had divulged information about the observatory as well as the excavation, to the media. This observatory is also a part of the ambitious scientific projects that China has earmarked for the next five years. A US daily had even claimed that China has made separate allocation for this purpose, in its budget.

Both China and the US are claiming that the ‘South China Sea’ region is plentifully enriched with mineral resources. According to the information provided by the ‘Energy Information Administration’ of the US, this oceanic region contains oil reserves to the tune of 11 billion barrels and natural gas reserves to the tune of 190 trillion cubic feet. Whereas China has claimed that the ‘South China Sea’ region contains oil reserves worth 125 billion barrels and natural gas reserves worth 500 trillion cubic feet. China, having claimed its right over the entire ‘South China Sea’, has  staked its claim over this mineral wealth as well. Also it had started excavation activity in the oceanic territories of Vietnam and Philippines. Vietnam had strongly objected to this excavation by China.

Meanwhile, the US has objected to the construction of artificial islands by China in the ‘South China Sea’ region. The construction of the aforesaid artificial islands is against the international maritime rules; and Chinese destroyers will not be allowed to even get near to these islands, announced the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a few weeks back. Against this background, a strong reaction is expected from the US over the construction of this observatory by China in the ‘South China Sea’.

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