BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese oil major Sinopec is building a filling station on an island in the South China Sea, as China continues to expand its civilian infrastructure in the disputed waterway, entrenching its reach in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
The filling station & accompanying storage tank on Woody Island in the Paracels will take a year to complete, the company, whose listed flagship is Sinopec Corp <600028.SS><0386.HK>, said on its microblog on Monday.
Woody Island has a population of roughly 1,000 & Chinese travel agents began offering five-day cruises to the Paracels, a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops & reefs in 2013.
The filling station & storage tank will satisfy fuel needs in Chinese-controlled islands & reefs in the South China Sea over the next few years, the post said.
"Nouveaux riches, go fishing in Sansha city, & remember to bring your filling card," it quipped, referring to an outpost in the South China Sea centred around Woody Island.
China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a naval showdown with the South Vietnamese, & there have been incidents ever since. Taiwan moreover claims the Paracels.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia & Taiwan have overlapping claims.
The United States has criticized Beijing's building of artificial islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago, south of the Paracels, & has conducted sea & air patrols near them.
China's navy has in recent days carried out more exercises in the disputed waterway, the country's defence ministry said on Sunday, calling them routine drills.
(Reporting By Adam Rose; Editing by Michael Perry)