BEIJING - China plans to let tourists visit the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to official comments reported on Thursday that could add another irritant to Beijing's maritime tensions with Vietnam and other neighbors.
China and Vietnam maintain rival claims across swathes of the South China Sea, including the Paracel Islands. Called the Xisha islands in Chinese, they are a cluster of close to 40 islets, outcrops and reefs that are controlled by Beijing.
That dispute and a mosaic of other conflicting claims have set China against Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.
The proposed opening of the Paracel Islands to tourism could add to the long-standing friction, which has drawn the United States into pressing Beijing over the issue.