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China building fourth Antarctic research base

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December 19, 2013 08:37 AM EST | AP

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BEIJING (AP) — Growing scientific power China has begun constructing its fourth Antarctic research base to enhance studies into climate change and other fields, state media reported Thursday.

Taishan Station is being built about 500 kilometers (310 miles) inland, the China Daily newspaper and other media said. It is to house as many as 20 people during the Antarctic summer from December to March and be unstaffed the rest of the year.

The base is a further sign of China's lofty scientific ambitions following the soft landing of a rover on the moon earlier this month. China also boasts the world's fastest supercomputer and is investing heavily in deep-sea exploration.

China currently operates two coastal bases year-round in Antarctica staffed by as many as 140 people during the summer, along with a high-altitude inland base that closes during the winter.

Great Wall Station, China's first, opened in 1985, more than 80 years after Argentina inaugurated the first continually staffed base. In 1983, China acceded to the Antarctic Treaty that guarantees freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on the continent.

The reports said workers constructing Taishan Station flew to the site by helicopter Wednesday from the icebreaker Xuelong, which is carrying 256 personnel, including two Thai scientists. The mission is China's 30th to the Antarctic and will also survey possible sites for the construction of a future fifth Antarctic base.