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China Expands Naval Base in Disputed Asian Sea


FILE - Flags with the logo of the Communist Party of China fly in the breeze near a launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan province, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. China’s military has expanded a navy base in the South China Sea.
China Expands Naval Base in Disputed Asian Sea
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China’s People's Liberation Army has expanded a navy base in the South China Sea. The expansion has taken place over at least the past year. The base is on the island province of Hainan.

Military experts with the website GlobalSecurity.org report that Yulin has gone from a normal submarine base to one that can support nuclear submarines.

Expansion of the base increases China’s ability to control the South China Sea. China’s coast guard and navy already move through the waterway, which is claimed by five other countries.

The base is on the north end of the South China Sea. Chinese ships at the base will be near the small Chinese-held islets in the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. In that area, the Chinese navy can organize military exercises as well as watch the movements of ships from other countries.

Gregory Poling is director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He said the base is what “controls all the deployments in the Paracels and the Spratlys.”

China cannot easily place ships permanently on the islets because it is too far from the Chinese mainland, and the sea is very rough, Poling added.

Growth of the Yulin base is part of a larger, long-term Chinese naval modernization, Poling said.

FILE - Helicopter rescue crew members practice rescue techniques during an emergency drill held by Sansha city's maritime search and rescue center in the South China Sea near Sansha, in south China's Hainan province, July 14, 2016.
FILE - Helicopter rescue crew members practice rescue techniques during an emergency drill held by Sansha city's maritime search and rescue center in the South China Sea near Sansha, in south China's Hainan province, July 14, 2016.


Wider dispute

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea. It says its claim comes from its long history of using the waters. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disagree with some or all of China’s claims to the sea.

China has used its technological and military abilities to control some of the islets.

Last year, a Chinese coast guard ship sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. Also last year, a Malaysian ship closely followed and angered a Chinese coast guard ship. And Indonesia, which does not claim any of the area, chased a Chinese coast guard ship out of the southernmost part of the South China Sea. Indonesia and Vietnam brought details of the maritime conflicts with China to the United Nations.

The United States has no claim on the waters. But U.S. officials look to Southeast Asian nations and Taiwan to help hold back Chinese military expansion.

Alexander Huang is a strategic studies professor at Taiwan’s Tamkang University. He said the expansion of the base is “future-oriented.”

The Yulin Naval Base would be the starting point for more distant outposts, said Collin Koh. He is a maritime security researcher at Nanyang Technical University in Singapore. These areas, he said, “will increasingly become more important staging grounds.”

Navy base improvements

The Yulin Navy Base belongs to a larger southern naval command center established in 1951.

Yulin appears to be especially designed for future aircraft carriers, Huang said. China’s first self-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, will serve the southern command area, centering on the South China Sea, the Chinese state-run Global Times reported in October.

The Shandong entered the navy early last year.

I’m Susan Shand.

VOA’s Ralph Jennings reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

islet – n. a small island

archipelago – n. a group of islands

asset – n. a valuable person or thin

maritime – adj. of or relating to sailing on the sea or doing business (such as trading) by sea

orient – v. to place (something) in a particular position or direction

outpost - n. a large military camp that is in another country or that is far from a country's center of activity

stage – v. a place or area of activity in which the things that happen are watched with great interest by many peopl

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