China is reportedly planning to construct an airfield on the politically neutral continent of Antarctica.The Chinese government plans to build the airfield near its Antarctic Zhongshan Station on Larsemann Hills in Prydz Bay in East Antarctica, the Beijing Evening News reported on Monday.
“[Researchers] must rely on maritime transport…[which is] seriously affecting the ability of scientific exploration,” the report said.
China’s Xue Long (Snow Dragon) icebreaker is scheduled to depart Shanghai on Thursday for an expedition to Antarctica, the report added.
The paper, however, failed to provide additional details such as runway length or capacity.
In April, Snow Dragon completed China’s 30th expedition to the southernmost continent, approximately 30 years after the first Chinese mission to the continent, state media said.
Antarctica is politically neutral and has no government, although various countries claim sovereignty in certain areas. A few of these countries have mutually recognized each other’s claims, though the validity of these claims is not recognized universally.
The continent has witnessed an upsurge in tourism from less than 5,000 in 1990 to about 40,000 a year now.
The Antarctic Treaty forbids any military activity in the continent, including the formation of military bases, military maneuvers, and weapons testing.
Military personnel or equipment are allowed only for stated scientific research or other peaceful purposes.