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China islands open

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China has begun allowing tourists to visit the Paracel Islands, one of a group of disputed islets and reefs in the South China Sea, according to a story by Reuters news agency, which credits state news agency Xinhua.

A cruise ship that can accommodate 1,965 passengers is ready for sailing to the Paracels, known in Chinese as Xisha, Xinhua reported.

“Tourists will eat and sleep on the cruise ships and can land on the islands for sightseeing,” Tan Li, vice governor of China’s southernmost island province of Hainan, told Xinhua.

China took full control of the Paracels – a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs – in 1974 after a naval showdown with the then South Vietnam, and there have been incidents ever since, Reuters reported.

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