Officials say the move to introduce the long-range ship will bring with it a “new era” in ocean exploration. But rivals for the rights over the controversial seas argue it could have a negative impact as the ongoing row over it continues. Called the Da Yang Hao, the vessel can conduct deep-sea resource searches in any of the world’s seas.
According to South China Morning Post, a report on the vessel said: “Delivery of the vessel marks a new era for China’s capability in marine resources exploration and research.
“It will help to maintain the country’s interests in the international sea area.”
Over the past months, Beijing has been boosting its numbers and presence in the South China Sea.
Collin Koh, a researcher at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said: “It’s by definition not a survey ship but an oceanographic research vessel.
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“It usually does more than survey but also has laboratories on board to carry out marine scientific research experiments too.
“If deployed to the South China Sea, the ship helps project China’s maritime presence.
“But more than that, the ship’s collection of vital oceanographic information and data helps China enhance its understanding of the waters, which will help optimise its range of civilian and military activities – altogether helping China assert its claim.”
The announcement comes just days after Vietnam, a South China Sea rival, called on Beijing to remove one of its oil vessels from the water.
Reports suggest there has been a major standoff between coastguard ships from nearby countries close to the Spratly Islands. However, Vietnam has now told China to withdraw an oil exploration ship from the sea.
The ship’s presence appears to have caused the rift as countries such as Vietnam sent their own vessels to assess the situation.
Tensions over the water have been boiling in recent months, with arguments escalating between the US and China.
Fears of open conflict over the South China Sea have also been raised.
China claims the waters, but Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines also believe it is theirs.