China's government said Thursday that it has approved a provincial proposal to build a supply dock in the South China Sea, where Beijing is beefing up its claims of sovereignty amid territorial disputes with five other governments.
The State Oceanic Administration said in a statement that it had "in principle" agreed to a proposal by southernmost Hainan province to build the dock over more than 3.3 square kilometers (1.3 square miles) of sea space off Jinqing island to service Chinese tourism and fishing activities in the South China Sea. Jinqing is part of the disputed Paracel Islands, and the move could further raise tensions with rival claimant Vietnam.
A separate proposal to build another comprehensive supply dock in the South China Sea is under consideration, the administration's three-sentence statement said, without elaborating.
Hainan Vice Governor Tan Li said earlier this week that he is determined to start tourism development in the Paracel Islands this year.
China ejected forces of the former South Vietnam from the Paracels in 1974, but Vietnam claims the islands as part of its territory and protested China's plans to develop tourism there in 2009.
The Paracels are among 200 islands, reefs and coral outcrops in the South China Sea that have been claimed in all or in part by China, Vietnam and four other governments for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes. The other claimants are the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Also on Thursday, the Philippines said China violated a 2002 nonaggression pact when Chinese government ships prevented Filipino authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen who allegedly intruded into a disputed shoal in the South China Sea this month.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in Manila that China's aggressive actions at Scarborough Shoal, including an order by its ships for Filipino vessels to leave the area, violated the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The accord, signed between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, discourages aggressive acts that might spark clashes in the disputed South China Sea.
Del Rosario said Manila would consider any ASEAN offer to intercede to end the shoal dispute, which began April 10.