China appoints officers to South China Sea garrison
Saturday, 28 July 2012 01:24 GMT
China has appointed military officers at a newly-established garrison in the South China Sea, state media reported yesterday, the country’s latest step to bolster claims to disputed islands in the area.
Separately, in comments likely to anger Beijing, Japan’s defense minister said that his country could dispatch its military to islands in the East China Sea if a territorial dispute there with China escalates.
China’s defense ministry announced the appointments Thursday, the China Daily said, two days after China said it had established the city of Sansha on an island in the disputed Paracel chain, along with the military garrison. China’s neighbors reacted furiously to the move with Vietnam, which also claims the Paracel Islands, filing a formal protest and saying it “violates international law.”
Manila, which is involved in a dispute over another archipelago, the Spratly Islands, summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a complaint against the garrison announcement.
Sparsely populated Sansha is China’s smallest city in terms of population and land size. China reckons, however, that it’s the biggest when total area is factored in given the wide swathe of the South China Sea it is meant to oversee.
State media have carried photos of a large domed and pillared building that serves as the city’s administrative center on the island of Yongxing, as well as images of a police station, a bank, a telecom office and residents relaxing outside humble wooden dwellings.
The three-floor building that state media said came into use on July 20 appears by far to be the biggest structure on the small island, which from photos appears largely covered in thick, green vegetation, including palm trees.
While Chinese media accounts of Yongxing’s population vary, it appears to be not much bigger than 1,000 people.