(AsiaNews/Agencies) - China has approved the formal
establishment of a military garrison on South China Sea islands at the centre
of a dispute with Vietnam and Philippines, state media reported today. The
command will be based in Sansha city on Woody Island in the Paracels, a city
formed in June to administer the area. The Chinese population numbers only a
few thousand, mostly fishermen. On Sunday, 45 legislators were named to the new
city's congress. Although nothing is known about how many soldiers will be
deployed and when, Beijing's decision to set up a garrison is bound to raise
tensions in an area that is strategically important for world trade, and rich
in raw materials as well as oil and natural gas.
Central Military Commission (CMC) authorised the People's Liberation Army (PLA)
Guangzhou Military Command to ''form a garrison command in'' Sansha city, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday.
troops would be ''responsible for managing the city's national defence
mobilisation, military reserves and carrying out military operations". The
command will be ''under the dual leadership of the Hainan provincial
sub-command and the city's civilian leaders".
In Vietnam, protests against China's imperialist policy in the Asia-Pacific
region continue. About
150 Vietnamese protesters marched through Hanoi yesterday to assert Vietnamese
claims over the Spratly and Paracel islands.
demonstrators, including parents with toddlers and seniors, defied police requests
to disperse and circumvented barricades aimed at preventing access to a square
where the Chinese embassy is located.
in the South China Sea are potentially rich in oil and are claimed by China,
Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines and Malaysia. Attempts by some of them to
claim one or more atolls have led to frictions.
and Vietnam have slammed Beijing's
increased aggressiveness in asserting its sovereignty. In the recent past,
incidents have occurred involving Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese fishing
and Hanoi have sought support in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) against China. However, a recent ASEAN meeting in Cambodia did not
produce any results as member
states failed to come up with a joint position against Beijing.
The opposition of the host nation was crucial. Phnom Penh's stance is very
much related to its close economic ties to Beijing.
hegemonic aims have also raised concerns in the United States, which has beefed
up its naval presence in the Pacific.