China has set a world record for deep-sea drilling in the South China Sea, Chinese state media reported, while tensions in the disputed area are rising.
According to the Xinhua news agency, Chinese scientists aboard a marine research vessel drilled on Wednesday 2,060 meters (6758 feet) under the seabed to obtain a sediment core. China’s drilling system Sea Bull II is the world’s only seabed drilling equipment with a drilling capacity of more than 200 meters (656 feet), and it could help the country to explore natural gas hydrate resources, Xinhua says.
China has said in recent years it has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates, also known as ‘fire ice’ or ‘flammable ice’, including in parts of the South China Sea.
It was not immediately clear where exactly in the South China Sea the latest deep-sea drilling project took place, but tensions in the area have recently escalated.
China and several other countries in the Indo-Pacific have been involved in a long-running dispute in the South China Sea. The dispute involves territorial claims by China as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia. China has territorial claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.
This month alone, the Philippines and China entered into a dispute over Chinese vessels in what the Philippines says is its zone, and China urging the Philippines “to stop baseless allegations on the South China Sea issue.”
A court in The Hague in 2016 ruled against China’s claims and in favor of the Philippines. China, however, has not acknowledged the ruling, which has heightened tensions in the area.
Tensions further intensified after the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) entered the South China Sea on Sunday to conduct routine operations. This was the second time the group has entered the disputed South China Sea during its 2021 deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.