Chinese scientists embarked on a deep-sea mission in the resource-rich South China Sea today notwithstanding a simmering maritime dispute with many countries in the region. China’s manned submersible ‘Jiaolong’ with her crew of scientists arrived in the location aboard the mother ship Xiangyanghong 09 today, the beginning of the second stage of China’s 38th oceanic expedition.
The submersible is expected to conduct its first South China Sea dive this year tomorrow if the weather conditions allow, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Wu Changbin, the general commander of the second stage of the expedition as saying.
During the mission, which lasts until May 13, scientists hope to choose a site for experimenting the collection of polymetallic nodules and complete geological and biological surveys.
The 38th oceanic scientific expedition started on February 6. Jiaolong completed a dive in the northwestern Indian Ocean earlier this year in the mission’s first stage.
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It will also conduct surveys in the Yap Trench and the Mariana Trench in the third stage. Named after a mythical dragon, Jiaolong reached its deepest depth of 7,062 meters in the Mariana Trench in June 2012. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including islands more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland, despite objections from neighbours such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
The region is home to a wealth of natural resources, fisheries, trade routes, and military bases, all of which are at stake in the increasingly frequent diplomatic standoffs, experts say.
Beijing has also created artificial islands in the area, turning them into military and logistical bases. The new defence facilities will further establish China’s military dominance over the highly contested region, they say.