China successfully carried out test flights of two civilian aircraft on Wednesday on a newly-built airfield in the Nansha Islands of the South China Sea.
The two planes took off from Meilan airport in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, flying for two hours to land at the airfield on Yongshu Jiao in the Nansha Islands at 10:21 a.m. and 10:46 a.m. local time, respectively.
Xinhua reports that the test flights could help better serve the needs of many vessels and seafarers. The article said that the airfield has been built with the aim of providing more access to transportation of materials, personnel, and medical services.
In addition to that, it says that the airfield will help in meteorological monitoring and ocean exploration, along with facilitating maritime research, given its “convenient location in the middle of a vast sea.”
The South China Sea is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Xinhua article said the airfield could help reduce time in searching for missing vessels and aircraft.
Citing the example of the missing MH 370 jet, it added that in that case, it had taken rescue vessels and planes quite some time to reach search locations, and “a land base like Yongshu Jiao could have significantly reduced the time it took the rescuers to arrive there.”
In response to a question about concerns raised by Vietnam about China’s test flights to the airfield, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on January 2 that the “activity falls completely within China’s sovereignty.”
Story compiled with information from Xinhua and CCTV News.