The Chinese government has raised the administrative status of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea from county-level to prefectural-level, according to a Thursday statement.
The State Council, or China's cabinet, has approved the establishment of the prefectural-level city of Sansha to administer the three island groups and their surrounding waters, while the government seat will be stationed on Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands, according to a statement from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
The council has abolished the county-level Administration Office for Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands, which was also stationed on Yongxing Island, the statement said.
A spokesperson of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Thursday that the setting up of Sansha city will help to improve China's "administrative management on Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their future development."
"It is also conducive to protecting the oceanic environment of the South China Sea," the spokesperson said.
China first discovered and named the reefs, islets and the surrounding waters of Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands, and has exercised sovereignty control continuously over the area, the spokesperson said.
The People's Republic of China set up the Administration Office for the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha Islands in 1959, according to the spokesperson.