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China deploys singer to disputed island

Do Not UseDo Not Use 4/05/2016
Song Zuying performs during the "Cultures of China, Festival of Spring" concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (March 2013) © AP Song Zuying performs during the "Cultures of China, Festival of Spring" concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (March 2013)

Her career has taken her round the world but popular Chinese folk singer Song Zuying's latest tour has taken her to new destinations - very new.

Song Zuying performs during the "Cultures of China, Festival of Spring" concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles (March 2013): Popular Chinese military folk singer Song Zuying has performed around the world © AP Popular Chinese military folk singer Song Zuying has performed around the world

The military chanteuse entertained workers on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys in the South China Sea.

Map of the South China Sea: China's so-called "nine dash line" (here as a solid blue line) is the basis of all its South China Sea claims © BBC China's so-called "nine dash line" (here as a solid blue line) is the basis of all its South China Sea claims

It is the first stop in a tour of the disputed territory, where China has been reclaiming land and building military facilities on reefs.

Photos of the performance reveal multi-story buildings and a large warship.

Several Asian countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, also claim sovereignty over the reefs and islands of the Spratlys.

China has been building artificial islands there, saying the structures are for civilian purposes, but neighbouring countries are concerned at their possible military use.

Q&A: South China Sea dispute

The performance by Song and a 50-strong troupe of navy entertainers included magic tricks and songs such as "Ode to the South Sea Defenders".

It took place in front of the People's Liberation Army's second biggest ship, using a large naval dock.

The BBC's Stephen McDonell says photos from the performance, which was first revealed on Tuesday by state media, show the extent of the infrastructure being built on Fiery Cross.

Images published by the South China Morning Post show large crowds of military personnel enjoying the show on Saturday against a backdrop of the new facilities.

China turned the reef into an artificial island through a massive dredging operation, and constructed buildings and an air strip.

Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years.

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