Vietnamese border guards watch the US Seventh Fleet's USS Blue Ridge entering Tien Sa port as Vietnam welcomes the port call of three US naval ships including the guided missile destroyer USS Chafee and the rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard in the central city of Danang on April 23, 2012.
Credit: Hoang Dinh Nam

China is moving to form a military garrison in the newly established Sansha City in the disputed South China Sea, which is likely to further inflame tensions in the region.

Chinese state media reported the approval of the move by the powerful Central Military Commission on Sunday, citing sources with the People's Liberation Army and China’s Ministry of National Defense.

"The garrison command will be a division-level command under the PLA's Hainan provincial sub-command, responsible for managing the city's national defense mobilization, military reserves and carrying out military operations," Xinhua wrote.

Xinhua also reportedly wrote that China had formed a municipal council for Sansha City and authorized the deployment of a military base in the area, according to VOA.

The report said 1,100 residents of several islands known in Chinese as Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha — part of the new city — had elected 45 deputies to a municipal people's congress.

The council would be based on an island China refers to as Yongxing.

The Chinese Defense Ministry reportedly said that troops to be sent to the newly established garrison would be under the dual leadership of Hainan province’s military sub-command and Sansha City’s civilian leaders.

China's announcement is the latest in a series of recent actions to expand its physical presence in waters claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Its actions have drawn condemnation around the region.

The Philippines has lodged a diplomatic protest against Beijing over the establishment of Sansha City, said a report on the GMA News website.

The city "violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea," Manila reportedly said

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. claims Filipinos have been settled in the islands since 1978. 

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