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Be wary of Chinese research vessel deployment to South China Sea, analyst says

/ 06:59 PM March 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines—China has recently deployed its research vessel with a manned submersible to the South China Sea for a marine scientific research, a move that is seen as an “assertion of its excessive rights” in the disputed waters.

Chinese state-owned global news channel China Global Television Network (CGTN) reported on March 11 that Tansuo-1, a Chinese research vessel, set sail from South China Sea’s Hainan province for a deep-sea scientific research.

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The vessel carried manned submersible Deep Sea Warrior, which also conducted a similar expedition in the South China Sea in recent years. It can reach a depth of 4,500 meters or more than 4 kilometers.

“With 60 scientific researchers on board, the 20-day trip will complete the parameter measurement and sample collection of marine life, marine geology and physical oceanography in the South China Sea,” the report said.

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The deployment was also said to be significant because it marked the transition of Nanshan Port “from a mere freight terminal to a multi-functional terminal for freight, scientific research and maintenance.”

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal said China’s use of marine scientific research was meant “to support even its assertions of excessive rights” and “try to develop and project maritime power.”

“Since the stated area of operation is the South China Sea, this will enable China to preempt other states in conducting deep-sea research in their own exclusive economic zone or continental shelf areas,” he said.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, which refers to waters claimed by the Philippiens.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by vital sea-lanes through which $5 trillion in global commerce passes every year and where islets, reefs, and atolls are believed to be sitting atop vast energy reserves.

“China’s past record of unilaterally conducting MSR even in the jurisdictional waters of other South China Sea littoral states is not about to change,” Batongbacal said.

Edited by TSB
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TAGS: Deep Sea Warrior, deep-sea research, Hainan, Research, South China Sea, Spratlys, Tansuo 1, territorial dispute, vessel
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