China plans to build new base for keeping an eye on Senkaku Islands

China plans to build new base for keeping an eye on Senkaku Islands
China plans to build a large-scale coastal base in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, aiming to step up its monitoring activities in the seas around the Senkaku Islands, it has been learned.

SHANGHAI - China plans to build a large-scale coastal base in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, aiming to step up its monitoring activities in the seas around the Senkaku Islands, it has been learned.

The China Coast Guard has been conducting monitoring activities in the East and South China seas. It likely plans to use the new base to dock government vessels en route to waters around the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture. The base is also expected to be a site for conducting maintenance and repair work on such ships and training crew members.

While tensions between China and Japan appear to be easing, as seen in the resumption of private-sector exchanges, the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping has maintained its sovereignty claim in the East China Sea and intends to continue sending government ships and reinforcing such moves.

The project came to light as a topic on the agenda at a meeting of the Wenzhou city government and such organs as the coast guard. Information regarding the content of the discussion was briefly posted on the Zhejiang provincial government's website earlier this month.

Known as "Wenzhou command general security base," the envisaged base will encompass a land area of 500,000 square meters and feature a 1,200-meter pier, according to the information posted online. It will be capable of accommodating as many as six ships, including a large vessel with a displacement of up to 10,000 tons. Aircraft hangars and a large training facility will also be built on the base.

The total construction cost will be 3.34 billion yuan (about S$731.2 milion), to be entirely shouldered by the central government.

The website states that Wenzhou, which is about 350 kilometers from the Senkaku Islands, is the closest major city in China. "It is advantageous for the now routine patrol activities needed to protect maritime interests on the Diaoyu Islands [the Chinese name for the Senkakus]," it said. All information related to the base had disappeared from the website by Friday.

China has been intensifying its claims of sovereignty by frequently sending government ships to waters around the Senkaku Islands since September 2012, when the Japanese government nationalised the islands. Many of the ships are believed to belong to the East Sea branch of the China Coast Guard in Shanghai, departing from Shanghai, Ningbo in Zhejiang Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province.

The construction of a base in Wenzhou would establish a port more than 100 kilometers closer to the Senkaku Islands than Ningbo, the current closest starting point for those ships.Speech

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