TAIPEI — China’s public order to keep away from a rare, environmentally unique ocean sinkhole in the Paracel Islands signals a new effort to tighten its grip on a tract of water disputed with Vietnam and monitored by the United States.
The Chinese city of Sansha ordered on its website this month that tourism, fishing and unauthorized research teams avoid the 301-meter-deep (987-foot) Dragon Hole on a Beijing-held islet in the widely contested South China Sea. China is expected to protect the ecologically rare blue hole, the deepest feature of its kind in the world, rather than develop it.
Exclusive environmental protection work locks in China’s claim to the Paracels, said Yun Sun, senior associate with the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center, a U.S.-based think tank.
“From the Chinese perspective, that’s a way to show the other countries and show the world that it’s really ours, not because we took it by force from the Vietnamese but also because ‘hey we’re managing it,’” Sun said.
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