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China to expand presence in Antarctica with new research bases

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will expand its presence in Antarctica by building a fourth research base and finding a site for a fifth, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday, as the country steps up its increasingly far-flung scientific efforts.

Chinese scientists are increasingly looking beyond China for their research, including sending submersibles to explore the bottom of the ocean and last weekend landing the country's first probe on the moon.

Workers will build a summer field camp called Taishan and look for a site for another research station, the official China Daily reported.

"As a latecomer to Antarctic scientific research, China is catching up," the report cited Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration's Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, as saying.

China already has three Antarctic research stations - Great Wall, Zhongshan and Kunlun.

"Building the Taishan camp and inspecting sites for the (other) station can further guarantee that Chinese scientists will conduct scientific research over a wider range and in a safer way," Qu said.

The Taishan camp will be used during the South Pole's summer from December to March and will provide logistical support and be used to study geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science, the newspaper said.

Scientists will also be focusing their studies on climate change, it added.

The Taishan camp will be near the United States' McMurdo Station, Italy's Zucchelli Station and a recently built South Korean station, the newspaper said.

"While the nation is expanding its presence in Antarctica, it is also enhancing its scientific research ability, with a new icebreaker to be built and a fixed-wing aircraft to be bought for future polar expeditions," the report added.

In 1908, Britain became the first country to claim Antarctic territory, and since then New Zealand, France, Norway, Australia, Chile and Argentina have also lodged official claims, although most countries do not recognize them.

China does not have any territorial claims, but has been boosting its presence in Antarctica, and in June President Xi Jinping said polar exploration was an important field to develop.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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