October 10, 2015 - 9:12 AM EDT
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China opens lighthouses on disputed islands

BEIJING, Oct. 10 (UPI) --

China began operating two lighthouses on a reef on the Spratly Island chain in the South China Sea, a further indicator Beijing is accelerating its maritime operations on and near the disputed territory.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Saturday the lighthouses are intended to aid passing vessels in the South China Sea and improve navigation safety, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Transport ministry held a ceremony for the lighthouses on Huayang Reef of the Spratly Islands, which China calls Nansha.

The lighthouses on Huayang and Chigua reefs of China's Nansha Islands will provide efficient navigational aid and route guidance services and significantly improve navigation safety for passing vessels in the South China Sea, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The Spratlys, mostly barren reef islands, have been the center of an ongoing dispute between China and neighboring countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Each country has claimed the island chain as its own. The United States has urged China to stop its activities on and near the islands. The Spratlys sit in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes and is thought to be atop rich oil and natural gas deposits.

Hua said China will continue to construct other civilian and public facilities on the Spratlys to aid vessels as they traverse the waters, Xinhua reported.

Source: United Press International (October 10, 2015 - 9:12 AM EDT)

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