China is slated to build an underwater sea lab in the South China Sea, which will aid the country's search to locate minerals. The lab, which would be located nearly 10,000 feet underwater, may also serve as an added military aid in the disputed waters.
The submerged deep-sea platform is considered to be a high-priority project for the Chinese government and was found to rank second on a list of the country's top 100 science and technology innovative undertakings, the Bloomberg reported. A Chinese Science Ministry presentation revealed that authorities are keen on boosting the design and development process for the deep-sea lab, which the ministry's presentation also noted would be mobile and used for military purposes.
The details surrounding the underwater lab are still hazy. The Chinese government is yet to specify a date for the launch of the deep-sea platform or release details on estimated cost and location. However, the President Xi Jinping-led Chinese government has reinvigorated efforts to secure the South China Sea, over 80% of which China considers its sovereign territory.
The country recently announced its intention to establish an "air defence identification zone" (ADIZ) in efforts to secure the region and deter US military activities, which in turn has also stirred tensions with other nations, straining China's relationship with neighbours such as Vietnam and Philippines.
President Xi Jinping said at a national science conference in May: "The deep sea contains treasures that remain undiscovered and undeveloped, and in order to obtain these treasures we have to control key technologies in getting into the deep sea, discovering the deep sea, and developing the deep sea."
"To develop the ocean is an important strategy for the Chinese government, but the deep sea space station is not designed against any country or region," said Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' senior researcher for Southeast Asian affairs, Xu Liping.
"China's project will be mainly for civil use, but we can't rule out it will carry some military functions," he added. "Many countries in the world have been researching these kind of deep water projects and China is just one of those nations."