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China approves supply dock project in disputed Paracel islands

China has approved 'in principle' plans to construct a dock on an island in the South China Sea that Vietnam claims as its territory.

Google paracel islands 2012 03 13Enlarge
Google identifies the hotly disputed Paracel Islands -- claimed by both China and Vietnam -- as Chinese territory. (Screengrab)

China has approved “in principle” a project to construct a supply dock on an island in the South China Sea that Vietnam claims as its territory.

According to the BBC, the province of Hainan is seeking to build the dock in the Paracel islands to facilitate tourism.

The move is likely to inflame tensions between China and Vietnam, who both assert claims over the small islands and reefs in the area, which China has occupied since 1974.

A statement published on China’s State Oceanic Administration website on Thursday said the body agreed “in principle” to the Hainan province proposal, and went on to mention plans for another supply dock in the South China sea, although no further details were given.

Hainan Vice Governor said earlier this week that he was determined to begin tourism development in the Paracel Islands this year, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

More from GlobalPost: South China Sea - China vs. Vietnam

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 the governments of the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, due to their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fish resources and proximity to important commercial shipping lanes.

On Thursday, the Philippines accused China of violating a 2002 pact after Chinese government ships prevented Filipino authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen at a disputed shoal this month, the Associated Press reports.

More from GlobalPost: China, Japan go toe-to-toe over islets

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120427/china-approves-supply-dock-project-disputed-paracel-island