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South China Sea: Beijing builds underwater ‘surveillance network’ to keep tabs on rivals

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Beijing has built a system known as the “Blue Ocean Information Network”, according to research from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. Express.co.uk understands the new system consists of platforms with sonar systems and radar poles below the sea.

Beijing says the technology will be used for civilian purposes however it has been suggested the design allows for military use.

This could allow Beijing to persistently monitor contested waters or a disputed island giving them a military advantage.

The research paper said the new systems are intended “to host a number of different sensors and act as a communications conduit for the information that they collect.”

The 112-foot floating platforms consist of an upper and lower deck, it adds.

When deployed, half of the anchored platform is submerged for stability whilst power is provided by solar panels arrayed on top of the upper deck.

The paper says China has an uninterrupted chain of these new gadgets between Hainan and its bases in the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

However, many of China’s artificial islands stretch beyond Chinese territorial claims which are recognised by the UN.

Many of the islands and associated sea territory are disputed between Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.

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Dr Collin Koh, a professor at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies said that the zone fully encompasses sensitive areas and was not just political symbolism.

He claimed the new system will enable China to assert not only greater control but also the ability to respond quickly to security threats including those from US Navy destroyers.

The move comes after the Chinese ambassador to the United States said that China does not wish to see tensions between Beijing and Washington escalate further following tit-for-tat consulate closures over the past weeks.

Striking a conciliatory tone when asked about deteriorating bilateral ties, Ambassador Cui Tiankai told the Aspen Security Forum virtually that the world’s top two economies should work to cooperate instead of confronting each other.

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Mr Cui said: “I don’t think a new Cold War would serve anybody’s interest.

“Why should we allow history to repeat … when we are faced with so many new challenges?” he said, while rejecting US allegations of Chinese spying in the Houston consulate shut down by Washington last month.

US-China ties have deteriorated sharply this year over issues ranging from the coronavirus and telecoms-equipment maker Huawei to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and its clampdown on Hong Kong.

Chinese state media editorials have said the US move against the Houston consulate was an attempt to blame Beijing for US failures ahead of Trump’s November re-election bid.

Opinion polls show Trump trailing his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the November 3 election but the candidates have appeared to compete in their campaigns over who can appear toughest toward Beijing.


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