04/06/2016, 10.01
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A Chinese lighthouse on disputed islands in the South China Sea

The structure is 55 meters high. According to Beijing it will improve navigation in the area and facilitate relief and emergency response. Construction of two other lighthouses in as many atolls being planned. The commercial value of products in transit in the area is around 5 trillion dollars.


Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A lighthouse built by Beijing in one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea has begun operations. At 55 meters high it has been placed on Subi Reef to facilitate navigation of vessels [Chinese]. Last year there was a near miss between Beijing and Washington, when a US warship passed through the area to challenge the territorial claims of Beijing, provoking the wrath of the government.

According to reports from Xinhua the official State news agency, late in the afternoon yesterday, the Chinese Ministry of Transport held a "ceremony of completion of work", to celebrate the launch of the lighthouse; the laying of the foundation stone dates back to last October.

In late October, the United States sent the USS Lassen to the area.  It sailed within the 12 nautical miles that separate the Subi Reef from the coast.  Beijing immediately responded calling the gesture "extremely irresponsible".

Subi Reef is an artificial island recently built by China, in the context of expansion to the detriment of Vietnam and the Philippines. It led to the creation of other artificial atolls on Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef.

In fact, according to the UN International Convention the 12 nautical mile limit on the seas can not be applied to artificial man-made atolls or islands now covered by water. However, Beijing claims the legitimacy of their work underlining that the islands are there to ensure marine safety, scientific research and rescue of vehicles in distress.

Again according to Xinhua, the lighthouse was built to make "navigation more efficient" and "enhance emergency response." China also plans to build other lighthouses in two of the atolls, the Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef.

The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas.

For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational".



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