China could deploy maritime nuclear platforms in S. China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea)

By Reuters   April 24, 2016 | 04:59 am PT
China could deploy maritime nuclear platforms in S. China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea)
A nuclear power plant station model by China National Nuclear Corporation is pictured at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. Photo by Reuters.
China is getting closer to building maritime nuclear power platforms that could one day be used to support Chinese disputed projects in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea), a widely-read state-run newspaper said on Friday.

China has rattled nerves with its military and construction activities on the islands it occupies in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea), including building runways, though Beijing says most of the construction is for civilian purposes, like lighthouses.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said the nuclear power platforms could "sail" to remote areas and provide a stable power supply.

Liu Zhengguo, head of the general office of China Shipbuilding Industry Corp, which is in charge of designing and building the platforms, told the paper that the company is "pushing forward the work".

"The development of nuclear power platforms is a burgeoning trend," Liu said. "The exact number of plants to be built (by the company) depends on the market demand."

Demand is "pretty strong" he added, without elaborating.

The paper quoted a January report from the China Securities Journal that a demonstration platform is expected to be completed by 2018 and put into service by next year.

Chinese naval expert Li Jie told the newspaper the platforms could provide power for lighthouses, search and rescue equipment, defense facilities, airports and harbors in the South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea).

"Normally we have to burn oil or coal for power," Li said.

"Given the long distance between the Nansha Islands and the Chinese mainland and the changing weather and oceanic conditions, transporting fuel could be an issue, which is why developing the maritime nuclear power platform is of great significance," he added, using the Chinese name for Vietnam's Spratly Islands.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea), which is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, and is building islands on reefs to bolster its claims. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

Visiting Brunei, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi repeated China's stance that disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiations between the parties directly concerned.

China has been angered by a case bought by the Philippines to the Court of International Arbitration against China's South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea) claim, and says it will neither participate in the case nor accept the verdict.

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