BEIJING – A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.
CHINA SUCCESSFULLY TESTS NEW SEA PLANE
A Chinese media report says a newly developed sea plane that could expand the military’s room to operate in the South China Sea has passed a series of on-water tests.
China Aviation News said the AG600 Kunlong undertook the water maneuvering and low-speed flight trials on a lake in the central province of Hubei.
China says the plane is the largest amphibious aircraft currently in use, boasting a length of 37 meters (120 feet) and a wingspan of 39 meters (127 feet), making it about the size of a Boeing 737. It has a range of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles), a maximum take-off weight of 53.5 tons and is designed for handling in choppy seas.
While built partly for tasks such as fighting forest fires and maritime search and rescue operations, the Kunlong is also capable of transporting large numbers of troops and military equipment to China’s South China Sea claims.
A promotional video produced by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, China’s main manufacturer of civilian and military aircraft, showed the four-propeller seaplane making its maiden flight in December.
CHINA DENOUNCES PASSAGE OF BRITISH SHIP
China denounced the passage of the British warship HMS Albion close to Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea’s Paracel group, in a development that could affect negotiations on a post-Brexit trade agreement between the sides.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that China’s navy “conducted identification and verification over the relevant British warship in accordance with law and warned it off the waters.”
The Albion reportedly passed by the islands on Aug. 31 while sailing from Japan to Vietnam.