Some of the islands in the "disputed" South China Sea may become Maldives-style resorts with new developments.
This could be a lucrative move: China has laid claim to most of the Sea, where about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
In an interview with the official China Daily, Xiao Jie, mayor of what China calls Sansha City (on Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago), said he hopes the area will become a major tourist attraction comparable to the Maldives, and that development is expected in areas without a military presence.
The U.S. and its allies in the region have expressed concern about China's increasingly assertive pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea, including the construction of airfields and other military facilities. In turn, China has voiced its own concern about the increased U.S. presence in the region, claiming that most of the building work is for civilian purposes.
This month, Beijing demanded an end to U.S. surveillance near China after two Chinese fighter jets carried out what the Pentagon said was an "unsafe" intercept of a U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is also likely to be a prominent topic of discussion at a June 3-5 security forum in Singapore known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.