The Cultural Affairs Office in China's Hainan Province has designated the areas around four islets in the Shisha Islands in the disputed South China Sea as special zones for the preservation of cultural relics, according to media reports.
The announcement was made after after archaeologists discovered underwater relics near the the four Shisha islets -- Beijiao, Huaguang Jiao, Yuzhuo Jiao and Yongle Jiao -- during a routine maritime inspection carried out by the Hainan provincial government between April and May, the reports said.
The Hainan cultural bureau will collaborate with China's public security authorities to establish an advanced three-dimensional monitoring system to better protect the cultural relics in the area, also known as the Paracel Islands or Xisha Islands in China, the reports said.
Meanwhile, Sansha City in Hainan has been assigned to administer islets, shoals, reefs of Xisha, Zhongsha (Macclesfield Islands) and Nansha (Spratly Islands) and surrounding waters in the South China Sea, the reports said.
The area was part of the "ancient marine silk road" and a wealth of historical and cultural relics are believed to lie beneath the waters.
A few years ago, the wreckage of an 800-year-old ship, dubbed Huaguang Jiao No. 1, was discovered in Xisha waters, and 511 pieces of shipwreck and a large number of porcelain and bronze coins have been recovered, the reports said.
China's move to preserve the cultural relics in the areas is expected to draw concerns and protests from the countries that also claim full or partial sovereignty over the South China Sea island groups and surrounding waters, which are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and are close to one of the world's busiest sea.
The five other claimants are Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The following are excerpts from media coverage of the latest developments in the South China Sea territorial dispute:
Just after a more than two-month standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea ended amid adverse weather earlier this month, the Philippine government has opened a small kindergarten on another islet in the region that is also claimed by China and four other countries.
The school was opened June 15 without fanfare to help a Filipino community on the Pagasa Island, known as Chungyeh Island in Mandarin Chinese, in the Spratlys and not antagonize rival claimants, said a Philippine official on Sunday.
Chungyeh Island is the second largest island in the Spratlys. It was named after a warship from the Kuomintang government in China in 1946. The KMT government moved its seat to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communist Party of China. Chungyeh Island was taken over by the Philippines in 1971.
The newly opened kindergarten is the first educational facility set up by the Philippines on a South China Sea islet under its control.
Five students were welcome by their teacher in a classroom filled with crayons, pencils, coloring books and a blackboard, according to the Philippine official.
Filipino troops guard Pagasa, the largest of nine islands, sandbars and reefs held by the Philippines under a municipality that was established in 1978 to reinforce the country's its claim to the Spratlys.
More than a dozen families have been encouraged by the government to live on the small island 480 kilometers off southwestern Palawan province by offering them free food, shelter, electricity, water and now, education. (June 25, 2012).
United Daily News:
China showed off its maritime technological might Sunday with a manned Chinese submersible breaking through the 7,000-meter mark in an ocean dive.
The "Jiaolong" craft dived 7,020 meters in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean on its fourth dive since arriving in the area earlier this month.
The Jiaolong -- named after a dragon from Chinese mythology --carried three people deep into the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in the world.
Chinese authorities said they intend to use the submersible for scientific research, such as collecting samples of undersea life and studying geological structures, as well as future development of mineral resources.
But military experts said China's progress in sea exploration will give an advantage in imposing its will in South China Sea territorial disputes and combating a U.S.-Japan joint military containment policy.
Earlier this year, American film director James Cameron descended almost 11,000 meters to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. (June 25, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)