Beijing to step up aerial surveys of disputed islands

Monitoring aims to stamp sovereignty over disputed territory in East and South China Seas

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 January, 2014, 5:35am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 January, 2014, 5:35am

The State Oceanic Administration (SOA) will conduct regular aerial patrols over all islands claimed by China, intensifying air and sea surveillance in the East and South China seas.

The SOA recently issued instructions for patrols that will be supported by high-resolution aerial photography and video, and new aerial remote sensing technology. The most important islands will be surveyed at least twice a year, Xinhua reported.

According to the 11-point set of instructions, aircraft will also photograph uncontested islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, at least once a year. A minimum of three photos must be taken of each island on each trip, it added.

Islands outside the air defence identification zone in the East China Sea would be monitored once a year by radar remote sensing, Xinhua said.

SOA aircraft would also gather information about infrastructure development on key islets in the area of the South China sea administered by Sansha , a prefectural-level city set up two years ago by Hainan province. Its establishment drew protests from Vietnam and the Philippines, which also claim islands and reefs in the resource-rich sea.

Notice of the surveys comes after Beijing said it would base a 5,000-tonne patrol ship at Sansha on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands - known as the Xisha Islands in China and Hoang Sa Islands in Vietnam - to conduct regular patrols.

Aside from a civilian population of 1,000 on Woody Island - known as Yongxing in China - few, if any, of the other islands have a permanent civilian population.

"The aerial surveys aim to strengthen our maritime management in the East and South China seas, which is also a presentation of China's sovereignty over those islands," said Zhang Jie, deputy director of the Hainan Maritime Affairs Bureau.

"The new aerial surveys will be implemented soon because almost all our marine patrol ships are equipped with helicopters," he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Liberation Army Air Force said on Thursday that its aircraft had conducted regular patrols for the past two months in the air zone over the East China Sea, where China and Japan dispute sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, called the Senkakus in Japan.