Beijing: China is planning to build an underwater observation platform in the resource-rich South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with many south-east Asian countries including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The underwater observation platform - which will be its first - aims to observe underwater conditions in real time. "Construction work on the long-term observation platform covering key areas in the South China and East China seas will be done with the help of Shanghai's Tongji University and the Institute of Acoustics," Wang Pinxian, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said.
Mr Wang said that building the observation network showcases that China is actively joining in the international competition.
Institute of Acoustics refused to reveal the exact location and further details of the research programmes on the platform due to its sensitive nature, it said.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which carry a third of the world's maritime traffic and has huge amounts of oil and natural gas. China's claim is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China also claims Japan's hold over the islands in the East China Sea.
According to a report in the 'sciencenet', the observation platform will probe the undersea physical, chemical, and geological dynamics, and will also be used for other purposes.
An offshore drilling project led by Chinese scientists and 33 scientists from 13 countries including the US, France, Italy and Japan that left Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on February 7 for the South China Sea, have already completed the first drilling task of the expedition.
The first hole, identified as U1499A, has reached 3,770 meters below sea level, for collection of sediment samples, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
According to Sun Zhen of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, chief scientist of the research expedition team, a preliminary lithologic study was conducted on sediment believed to have been formed eight million years ago.
The second drill, close to the first hole, has begun and is expected to gather information from the sediment core, Mr Zhen said.
Scientists will explore the lithosphere extension during the continental breakup, by drilling four sites to a depth of 3,000 to 4,000 meters in the northern area of the South China Sea.
The study will contribute to understanding how marginal basins grow.
A total of 66 scientists from 13 countries will participate in the expeditions, as part of the International Ocean Discovery Programme.