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China stakes claim with new city

China's newest city is a tiny and remote island with a post office, bank, supermarket and a hospital, and little else.

Fresh water comes by freighter on a 13-hour journey from China's southernmost province.

But Sansha is part China's expanding toehold in the world's most disputed waters, portions of which are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and other neighbours.

Beijing has created the city administration to oversee not only the rugged outpost but hundreds of thousands of square miles of water, aiming to strengthen its control over disputed - and potentially oil-rich - islands.

A new mayor has declared Sansha, with a population of just 1,000, China's newest municipality.

The Philippines Foreign Ministry said it did not recognise the city or its jurisdiction. Vietnam said China's actions violated international law.

The city administration is on tiny Yongxing island, 220 miles from China's tropical Hainan Island. The cabinet approved Sansha last month to "consolidate administration" over the Paracel and Spratly island chains and the Macclesfield Bank, a large, completely submerged atoll that boasts rich fishing grounds that is also claimed by Taiwan and the Philippines.

Vietnam and China both claim the Paracels, of which Yongxing, little more than half the size of Manhattan's Central Park, is part. The two countries along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim all or parts of the Spratlys.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its island groups, and its disputes occasionally erupt into open confrontation. The islands, many of them occupied by garrisons from the various claimants, sit amid some of the world's busiest commercial sea lanes, along with rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits. China has approved the formal establishment of a military garrison for Sansha, though specific details have yet to be released.

Official broadcaster China Central Television aired Tuesday morning's formal establishment ceremony live from Sansha, with speeches from the city's new mayor and other officials.

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