Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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China Now Wants to Fly Tourists to the Disputed South China Sea Islands

From sailing, now China wants to fly tourists into the disputed South China Sea islands.

(Photo : Getty Images) From sailing, now China wants to fly tourists into the disputed South China Sea islands.

China is planning to launch air tour flights to the Paracel Islands in a disputed area of the South China Sea, also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, the South China Morning Post reported.

Authorities from the southern Hainan Province are still trying to seek approval from central authorities and the military to arrange the tours, based on a document released to Hainan delegates at the National People's Congress in Beijing. But the air tour plans have reportedly been listed as a priority.

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So far, tourists have been permitted to visit the Paracel Islands via cruise ship since April 2013. And these are going to be the first flights to the region.

Currently, two major cruise ships - the Dream of the South China Sea and the Changle Princess - are currently operating the trips. The ships visit three islands in the Crescent group of the Paracels (known as the Xisha Islands in Chinese). Last year, it brought more than 12,000 passengers to the disputed waterway. China also recently launched a new cruise ship that could carry 499 people last Friday, Sputnik News reported.

Hainan is not only the main hub for cruise ship operations in the South China Sea but is also responsible for administering the Paracels and other disputed territory such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, the Time reported.

If the proposal gains approval, the move would likely further anger Vietnam, which also has territorial claims to the Paracels. Other reefs and islands in the waters that China claimed as its own include the Spratly Islands, which are also being claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

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