China said on Tuesday it has successfully flight-tested routes to two new airfields on the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.
A Cessna CE-680 corporate jet from the Civil Aviation Administration's Flight Inspection Center conducted the flights to airfields on Meiji Reef and Zhubi Reef, the administration announced on its website.
"Data acquired from the flights show that the two new airfields are able to guarantee safe flights for commercial airliners," the administration notice said.
"This will facilitate the transport of personnel, emergency rescue and medical aid on the Nansha Islands, and will provide new alternate airports to flights over the South China Sea."
So far, Beijing has announced building three airfields on the Nansha Islands, as well as one on Yongxing of the Xisha Islands.
Tuesday's flights came a half-year after successful test flights of two commercial airliners landing on Jan 6 at a new airfield on Yongshu Reef in the Nansha Islands.
On April 17, a Navy patrol aircraft landed on Yongshu Reef to transport three seriously ill workers to Sanya, Hainan, for treatment.
Yin Zhuo, director of the Navy's Expert Consultation Committee of the People's Liberation Army, said the Nansha Islands airfields will be useful in helping China conduct rescues in the South China Sea.
"China will berth large rescue ships and have rescue planes on the Nansha Islands. When there is a maritime disaster, rescue forces will quickly be on hand."
Huang Renwei, vice-president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said in a dialogue between Chinese and US think tanks on the South China Sea issue in Washington on July 6 that the sea has to be fully covered by radar to ensure the safety of navigation by air or sea.
The Chinese airports will serve as safe havens for international planes when storms approach, he said.
"China's efforts to provide public infrastructure that protects safety in the South China Sea cannot be matched by any other country," Huang said.