China has approved a development project that would support tourism and fishing around South China Sea islands, a move likely to inflame territorial disputes.
Southernmost Hainan province wants to build a supply dock over more than 823 acres of water off Jinqing island, part of the Paracel chain. Vietnam claims the Paracels as its territory and has protested China's tourism plans there.
The State Oceanic Administration said Thursday it agreed "in principle" to Hainan's proposal. It is considering a proposal for another supply dock in the South China Sea, the statement said without elaborating.
Hainan Vice Governor Tan Li has said he was determined to start tourism development in the Paracel Islands this year.
The Paracels and other territory in the South China Sea are claimed variously by China, Vietnam and four other nations for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes.
Also on Thursday, the Philippines said China violated a 2002 pact when Chinese government ships prevented Filipino authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen at a disputed shoal this month.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in Manila that China's aggressive actions at the Scarborough Shoal violated an accord between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that discourages aggressive acts in the South China Sea.
Del Rosario said Manila would consider any ASEAN offer to intercede to end the shoal dispute, which began April 10.