BEIJING (AP) _ China is considering building a new satellite launch site on a southern island province, an official newspaper said Thursday.

The proposed launch center in Sanya city on Hainan, a tropical island off the southern Chinese coast, could eventually replace three existing launch pads in the southwest and north of the country, the China Daily reported.

``It is very possible that the plan will be passed by the central government, which has yet to make a final decision,'' Long Lehao, a deputy director of the China Satellite Transport Technology Research Academy, was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Hainan is ``an ideal launch location'' because its southern latitude would make it easier to send rocket-carried payloads into orbit, Long said. The center, which would double as a tourist destination, would cost $241 million, he said.

Building a new center would be cheaper than upgrading China's existing sites to handle more advanced rockets, Long said.