left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Nansha airfields serve public good

Updated: 2016-07-14 07:41
(China Daily)

Nansha airfields serve public good

Missile frigate Yuncheng launches an anti-ship missile during a military exercise in the water area near South China's Hainan Island and Xisha islands, July 8, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

China successfully carried out test flights of civilian aircraft to two new airfields on the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday.

Together with the one already constructed on Yongshu Reef, the two airfields, respectively located on Meiji Reef and Zhubi Reef, provide tangible benefits to vessels sailing in and planes flying over the area, thanks to their location in the middle of the vast water body.

More than 100,000 vessels from across the world-that is about 50 percent of the world's commercial shipping-sail through the South China Sea every year, yet the region lacks the necessary infrastructure to ensure safe passage.

Moreover, the airspace above the sea is among the most congested in the world, and the airfields can accommodate large passenger jets, which offers more options for aircraft should an emergency occur.

When Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 carrying 239 people went missing in March 2014, it took rescue vessels and aircraft quite some time to arrive at the spot where the flight was initially thought to have gone missing. Bases such as Meiji Reef and Zhubi Reef could have significantly reduced the time it took the rescuers to arrive there.

In fact, China has traditionally been charged with providing public services on the Nansha Islands, such as radio stations, observations and lighthouses.

Accordingly, its recent building activities on the Nansha Islands, including on Meiji Reef and Zhubi Reef, are only the natural extension of the efforts made by China to provide needed services for vessels and sailors in the region.

As the award in the controversial arbitration case initiated by the Philippines was announced by an arbitral tribunal one day ago, Wednesday's test flights may be seen by some as a direct response to it.

But that is not true.

The timing of the test flights for the two airfields was preset and independent of the unfounded arbitration. Since the test flights were made on reefs belonging to China, it was purely an internal matter for the country.

  • Group a building block for Africa

    An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.