China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reports that the country’s Ministry of Transport has begun operating a maritime rescue centre on one of its man-made islands in the South China Sea.
The transport ministry claims the facility was constructed on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef to ensure “navigation and transportation safety” and “offer better support to maritime rescue operations” in the area near the Spratly Island Chain.
The Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also lay claim to Fiery Cross Reef, on which China had completed building a 3,000-metre military-grade airstrip in January 2016.
The centre’s activation is one of the steps that Beijing has taken to expand its maritime search and rescue (SAR) capability in the South China Sea following the deployment of two SAR vessels to the also-disputed Subi and Mischief Reefs beginning in July last year.
Xinhua has also reported that the two SAR vessels have rescued a total of 16 people in eight separate incidents since being recently deployed to the region.