China is getting closer to building maritime nuclear power plants that could “sail” to disputed islands in the South China Sea and provide electricity for new defence facilities, airports and harbours, according to a report.

Almost the entire South China Sea – believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas – are claimed by Beijing. However Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about £3.5 trillion in trade flows every year.

Tensions have increased over China’s military and construction activities on the islands such as the Spratlys, some of which it has occupied. It has built runways and even artificial islands on reefs to bolster its claims to the waters. However Beijing says most of the construction is meant for civilian purposes, like lighthouses.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said the nuclear platforms could “sail” to remote areas and provide a stable power supply.

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