BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese scientists aim to complete the world's deepest dive in a manned submersible in 2012 by going to 7,000 meters (22,966 ft) beneath the sea after a successful test dive in the Pacific Ocean, state news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.
The Jiaolong -- named after a mythical Chinese sea dragon -- reached 5,057 meters (16,591 ft) in a dive in international waters in the Pacific in the early hours of Tuesday, Xinhua said.
"Such a depth means the Jiaolong is capable of reaching over 70 percent of the seabeds in the world," it quoted head of the diving operation Wang Fei as saying.
"It will pave way for a record-breaking 7,000-meter test dive in 2012," Wang added.
The current record holder is Japan's Shinkai 6500, which dived to 6,527 meters (21,414 ft) in August 1989.
Wang said the Jiaolong had performed admirably.
"At a depth of 5,000 meters, the Jiaolong withstood great pressure amounting to 5,000 tonnes per square meter," Wang said.
Further tests are expected, during which it will carry out "scientific research and further test different functions of the craft," Xinhua added.
The Jiaolong was used last year to plant the national flag deep beneath the South China Sea, where Beijing has tussled with the United States and Southeast Asian nations over territorial disputes.
While the Jiaolong falls under the remit of the ostensibly civilian State Oceanic Administration, China is developing a formidable submarine capability and the military will likely be paying close attention to the submersible's development.
President Hu Jintao has made the upgrading of the navy a key element of the country's military modernization, including the development of China's first aircraft carrier.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)