China has dispatched a well-known military singer to entertain construction workers and military personnel deployed on man-made islands in a disputed area of the South China Sea, showing off new assertiveness in a region riddled with territorial claims and counter-claims.
It also announced on Wednesday that several of its warships have embarked on a naval drill that will be carried out in the SCS, the east Indian Ocean and the West Pacific.
State media published photographs of Song Zuying, a famous singer of patriotic songs, performing while dressed in traditional finery on the man-made islands along the Nansha (Spratly) islands.
Skits and magic shows were also on the entertainment menu besides songs, reports said.
The photographs revealed the extent of construction that China has carried out in the region.
“Photos of the performances that spread across state media on Wednesday offered a rare glimpse of the extensive work China has been carrying out in the area, showing lighthouses, harbours and buildings all built atop coral reefs covered in sand and concrete,” a report by the Associated Press said.
“In the background…can be seen one of the navy’s massive Type 071 amphibious dock ships capable of carrying four helicopters and as many as 800 troops,” it said.
“Several of the photos were accompanied by captions, saying they had been taken Tuesday on Cuarteron Reef that is also claimed by the Philippines,” the report added.
Besides the Philippines, China is embroiled in disputes in the region with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The photos and news of the performance came as China announced that it would carry out fresh naval drills in the South China Sea.
“Three naval ships of China’s Nanhai Fleet left a naval port in Sanya, Hainan Province, on Wednesday, kicking off an annual combat drill in the South China Sea and neighboring waters,” official news agency Xinhua said.
“The three ships include missile destroyer Hefei, missile frigate Sanya and supply ship Honghu. They will later be joined by missile destroyers Lanzhou and Guangzhou, as well as missile frigate Yulin, which are now carrying out other duties,” it added.
The warships will be joined by three helicopters and dozens of “special warfare soldiers” and the fleet will divide into three groups, one each for the SCS, the east Indian Ocean and the West Pacific.