South China Sea museum ready to open in March

Beijing: China on Wednesday said it is planning to open a South China Sea museum to showcase its historic claim of sovereignty over the disputed region as the Philippines announced plans to declare a vast lagoon in the area as a marine sanctuary.

The national museum for the South China Sea is ready to open in March with a wide range of antiques collected from China and abroad, the museum’s preparatory office in China’s southern Hainan Province said.

The announcement came as Philippines officials said President Rodrigo Duterte planned to declare a marine sanctuary and no-fishing zone at a lagoon within Scarborough Shoal, which China terms as Huangyan Dao.

The reef was seized by China in 2012. Philippines officials said the plan to create the proposed sanctuary was “a unilateral action”.

The Philippines’ plan comes after Manila won an international arbitration ruling in July which had challenged China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal.

The tribunal has struck down China’s expansive claims over the areas.

Reacting to the Philippines plans, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told media briefing on Tuesday that China and the Philippines have reached an agreement on coming back to the track of dialogue for the settlement of the South China Sea issue.

“China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over Huangyan Dao has not and will not change,” he said.

Besides the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area.

The South China Sea dispute was toned down by Rodrigo’s recent visit to China during which he reset the ties with Beijing, putting the dispute on the back burner.

China’s museum, covering 10 hectares, will display artefacts about the history, culture and natural resources of the South China Sea, highlighting China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea and the protection of cultural heritage, Ding Hui, head of the cultural department of the Hainan provincial government told state-run Xinhua news agency.

Ten valuable ceramic pieces were donated to the museum by two Chinese companies that purchased them at an auction in New York in September.

The ceramics, including dainty vases, incense holders, drinking vessels, dishes, cups and saucers from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), had been in a collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before they were bought by Hainan Zose Group and Evergrande Tourism Group.

In addition, the museum’s preparatory office has received 832 antiques donated by fishermen in Tanmen Township of Qionghai City, where the museum is being constructed.

The newest items are more than 100 years old and the oldest date back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 -589), Xie Haishan, an appraiser based in Guangdong Province said. Most of them were produced in China, while others came from Southeast Asia and Europe, he said.

These antiques provide valuable clues to researchers about trade and cultural exchanges along the ancient maritime Silk Road, said Zhang Jianping, an official with the museum’s preparatory office.

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