Chinese authorities are stepping up activities to bring tourists to Vietnam's Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, which China illegally occupies, despite Vietnam's protests.
Authorities in Hainan Province are preparing to start tours from Sanya city to Yongxing Dao, or Woody Island, a petite heart-shaped island in the Hoang Sa archipelago.
China's Guangzhou Daily reported that the tours would begin latest by this month, with a four-day trip likely to cost 5,000 yuan (US$797).
It said seaplanes could be used to ferry tourists to Hoang Sa.
Xinhua news agency reported October 12 that some illegal brokers had already arranged for fishing boats to take tourists to Hoang Sa, with each tourist paying 7,800 Chinese yuan ($1,243) for a week-long tour to Yongxing Dao.
Following a series of illegal activities to develop so-called Sansha City in July, China held a flag-hoisting ceremony on Yongxing Dao to mark its National Day, October 1.
On October 3 the Chinese navy's Nanhai Fleet held an exercise in Hoang Sa waters, and five days later China set up a meteorological station on Yongxing Dao.
Earlier, on September 23 the Chinese media had reported that China would deploy unmanned aircraft to strengthen surveillance of the area, including the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.
On October 11 Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said China's acts violated Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos as well as international law and the agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues between Vietnam and China signed in October 2011.
They also ran counter to the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed between ASEAN and China in 2002, thus further complicating the East Sea situation, he added.
These acts are totally void, the spokesman said.
Vietnam asked China to respect its sovereignty and refrain from wrongful actions so as to make practical contributions to developing the friendship and cooperation between the two countries as well as maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea.