BEIJING China is to test a manned submersible that can reach up to 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) below sea level, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, citing the State Oceanic Administration.
Research on the submersible will be given "equal importance with China's space endeavors", the report said. China put a man in space in 2003, part of an ambitious space program that includes its first lunar probe launched last year.
Selection for the crew of the submersible began in August 2006, and China will finish building the first phase of its "deep-sea base project" by 2010.
A submersible is like a submarine, but they typically have a shorter range and rely on another vessel or facility for support.
The project would be equipped for deep-sea natural resource inspections as well as research and testing of equipment designed for deep-sea use, Xinhua said.
The report did not mention military uses for the submersible.
(Reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)