China's underwater observation system in South China Sea aims mainly for civilian use: experts

Updated 2017-05-31 09:31:20 Global Times

Network will help in disaster prevention: expert

China has approved a plan to build an underwater observation network in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which analysts said will be aimed mainly for civilian use, including providing vital information for disaster prevention and oil and gas exploration.

China will invest 2 billion yuan (2 million) to build the network, which will be capable of all-weather and real time HD multi-interface observation from seabed to surface, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.

The network will serve as a scientific research platform which can provide long-term and continuous data to research on the marine environment under the two seas, the CCTV report said.

"The planned physical platform can help us understand the complicated submarine world and provide a technical basis and the physical conditions for exploration and application of resources under the ocean," Li Jie, a Beijing-based navy expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

A data center will be built in Shanghai near the coast to monitor the observation network and to store and manage the data captured.

It can promote frontier research in fields such as earth systems and climate change and meet the country's comprehensive demand to monitor the marine environment, prevent disasters and protect national security and interests, the report said.

"However, some foreign countries will link the underwater system with a military facility and exaggerate its military usage given its geographical location," Li said.

"Military use is only one part of the planned use of the system, but civilian uses will have a much wider and diversified scope in the future," Liu Jiangping, another military analyst, told the Global Times.

"However, if foreign submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles enter Chinese waters, China is obligated to use data gathered from the underwater network to identify, detect or even drive away those vehicles to protect the security of China's territorial waters, exclusive economic zones and the country's sovereignty," Liu said.

The project is slated to be completed within five years.

"Given China's capability in drilling oil and gas in deep water and the recent progress of the manned submersible Jiaolong, China is technically ready and has the material and financial resources to achieve that goal within five years," Li said.

The Jiaolong descended to 6,544 meters in its third dive this year in the Mariana Trench on Saturday. The dives are to collect seawater, rocks and samples of marine life and conduct observation and HD photography near the seabed, China News Service reported on Sunday.

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