06:26 GMT +313 December 2019
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    Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan

    Purpose of China’s ‘New’ Tsunami Warning Center in S China Sea

    © AFP 2019 / POOL / RITCHIE B. TONGO
    Asia & Pacific
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    The head of China’s maritime control reportedly said that China has set up a tsunami alert center in the South China Sea.

    Wang Hong, the chief of the State Oceanic Administration, during China’s annual meeting of parliament, reported that a tsunami alert center had already begun preliminary operations even though it is still under construction.

    “We have already begun issuing tsunami alerts to the international community, including countries on the periphery of the South China Sea,” Reuters reported Wang as saying. “Cooperation in the South China Sea is one of our important focuses. We hope to collaborate with South China Sea countries and create a peaceful and harmonious sea.”

    Foreign media was quick to suggest that this new tsunami alert center has some potentially despicable intentions related to South China Sea conflict. Publication The Diplomat has tried to get some facts straight first.

    “The idea of a Chinese tsunami alert center is not a new one and has in fact been in the works for years. Following the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed around 230,000 people across 14 countries, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), largely through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), set up the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS), a network to promote data exchange for rapid tsunami detection.”

    Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still file image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy
    © REUTERS / U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters
    Within this network, alert centers were established to issue warnings to countries in different areas. China has also proposed to build its own tsunami-warning center during the UN meetings.

    “In September 2013, as was widely reported by Chinese media outlets, Beijing’s proposal to build the center was approved by the assembly of the IOC within UNESCO, and China’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center was made responsible for building the center,” The Diplomat wrote.

    Second, tsunami warning centers naturally do not cover one body of water exclusively, and China’s new one appears to not only cover the South China Sea. According to China’s State Oceanic Administration which Wang now heads, Beijing’s new tsunami early-warning center is meant to cover not just the South China Sea, but also the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas.

    Finally the new warning system could serve the purpose that other such centers now do: helping prevent devastating natural disasters under a framework that could benefit all countries at risk.


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    maritime security, center, tsunami, warning, UNESCO, South China Sea, China
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