China's new lighthouse in South China Sea functional

BEIJING: Amid rising maritime tensions, China has stepped up its foothold on the disputed South China Sea by operationalising a newly built lighthouse atop a reconstructed reef also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

China's Ministry of Transport held a completion ceremony for the construction of a lighthouse on Zhubi Reef, marking the start of its operation, state media reported today.

Construction of the Zhubi Lighthouse was initiated in October 2015.

The 55-meter-high lighthouse, with a lantern of 4.5 meters in diameter on the top and rotating lights inside, is monitored through a Beidou remote control terminal.

The automatic identification system (AIS) and very high frequency (VHF) stations inside the lighthouse can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Defending the Chinese action, the report said the South China Sea is a critical maritime corridor linking the Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as a major fishing ground.

However, high traffic density, complex navigation condition, severe shortage in aids and response forces have combined to threaten navigation safety and hindered economic and social development in the region, it said.

The lighthouse was aimed at improving maritime emergency response in the area, it said.

Commenting on the lighthouse inauguration, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, China has been committed to providing more public services in the South China Sea navigation ensuring safe navigation.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Its claims are countered by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

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