China is preparing to launch a new manned submersible to explore resources in the South China Sea.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the Shenhai Yongshi, or “deep sea warrior,” has passed all performance and safety tests, including a dive of 4,500 meters (about 15,000 feet) last month.
“Shenhai Yongshi will be used in the South China Sea and help explore the biological and mineral resources in the deep sea,” the official Global Times newspaper quoted Chen Xiangmao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, as saying.
Eight years in development, the submersible will join China’s currently operating deep sea exploration vessel, the Jialong, which has conducted dives in the deepest part of the world’s oceans, the Mariana Trench.
Along with key shipping lanes used to transport some $5 trillion in goods annually, the South China Sea contains rich fishing grounds and a potential wealth of undersea oil and gas.
China and Vietnam have previously clashed over resource exploration in the South China Sea, and China’s parking of an oil rig off Vietnam’s central coast in 2014 sparked confrontations at sea and deadly anti-China riots within the country.