China on Thursday commissioned a new cruise ship to take tourists to islands claimed by Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea, reinforcing its claim over the area.
The ship began its maiden voyage to the Paracel Islands, known as Xisha in Chinese, in the South China Sea, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The Paracel Islands, in the South China Sea where Beijing is locked in maritime disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, is also claimed by Vietnam.
The ship called Changle Gongzhu, or Changle Princess, sailed from Sanya with 308 passengers on board. Its first voyage will last four days and three nights, said an official with Hainan Strait Shipping, owner of the vessel.
It will reach the islands tomorrow and tourists can visit the islands of Yinyu, Quanfu and Yagong, the report said.Hainan Strait Shipping began cruises to the Xisha Islands in 2013.