A newly launched high-resolution imaging satellite will help China protect its maritime rights, the official China Central Television (CCTV) broadcaster reported on Wednesday amid growing tensions over disputed territory in the South China Sea.
The Gaofen-3, launched from a satellite launch centre in northern China's Shanxi Province on Wednesday, is China's first Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging device that is accurate to one metre and can operate in all weather conditions, according to the report.
It added that the satellite is “capable of taking wide pictures of the earth and photographing detailed scenarios of specific areas" and will also be used for disaster warning, weather forecasting and water resource assessments.
"The satellite will play an important role in monitoring the marine environment, islands and reefs, and ships and oil rigs," the official China Daily newspaper said, citing project leader Xu Fuxiang.
"Satellites like the Gaofen-3 will be very useful in safeguarding the country's maritime rights and interests," he added, according to the newspaper.
In July, an international court in The Hague ruled against China's claims in the resource-rich South China Sea after a case was brought forward by the Philippines, a decision stridently rejected by Beijing.
China immediately described the ruling as "ill-founded," "naturally null" and "void."
The powerful East Asian country had already stated in the past that it would not recognise the tribunal in The Hague and refused to take part in the hearings.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
Vietnam, China and Taiwan lay claim to all of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim some of the area.
Reuters reported this week that Vietnam had discreetly fortified several of its islands in the South China Sea with new mobile rocket launchers.
That followed satellite photos in July that showed China appeared to have built reinforced aircraft hangars on some of the disputed islands.