China is going to open its Xisha Islands to tourists in a bid to reassert China's sovereignty over a scattering of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, according to the National Tourism Administration.

A luxury cruise ship named Coconut Princess will take tourists from Haikou and Sanya cities in Hainan Province to the Xisha Islands, China National Radio reported today.

However, only Yongxing, the biggest of the islands, is suitable for landing. There are neither mobile phone signals nor Internet access on the island, but visitors can make a phone call in a post office on the island, the report said.

Deng Xiaogang, deputy director of the Hainan Province Development Commission, said the cruise is likely to be launched this year and in the next stage the ship will go to other uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.

"The Xisha Islands tourism plan enables us to guard the frontier and stake our claims to these islands," said Wang Zhifa, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration.

Located southeast of Hainan, the Xisha Islands consists of 22 islands, seven sandbanks and a dozen reefs. Its scenery is comparable to that of Maldives. Yongxing Island is a famous sanctuary for birds.

SOURCE: Shanghai Daily
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