- - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

In a move that could further destabilize and militarize the South China Sea — which has become a hotbed of tension between China, the United States and neighboring countries — China has announced that it wants to build a 3,000 meter deep “sea lab” to hunt for minerals but will almost certainly have a dual military use. The project was mentioned in China’s recently released five-year plan and listed as second in scientific priorities.

“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,” President Xi Jinping said last month at a national science conference, reports Bloomberg.

The report issued by the Chinese government admitted the lab would have a military purpose as well. Installing sensors to monitor submarines of perceived adversaries would most likely be at the top of the list. Military communications would also be an important function.

“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 Xu Liping, a senior researcher for Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government-run institute. “China’s project will be mainly for civil use, but we can’t rule out it will carry some military functions,” Bloomberg also reported Xu as saying. “Many countries in the world have been researching these kind of deep water projects and China is just one of those nations.”

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