Sat, Jan 09, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Vietnam issues second warning to China over flights

AFP, HANOI

Vietnam has issued its second rebuke in a week to Beijing, accusing its northern neighbor of “threatening peace” after more Chinese aircraft landed on a contested reef in the South China Sea.

Chinese state media on Wednesday said two civilian planes landed on Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁) in the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), which are claimed by Hanoi, but controlled by Beijing.

Taiwan also claims the islands.

The landings are “a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and threaten peace and stability in the region,” Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

The two “test flights” on Wednesday followed an initial aircraft landing on Saturday last week, which prompted the first formal diplomatic complaint from Hanoi.

The planes departed from and returned to the city of Haikou, the capital of Hainan Province, which is a two-hour journey each way.

The flights have raised alarm in the region and attracted criticism from the US, with the Pentagon on Thursday warning that the move would raise tensions in the disputed waters.

The Philippines has also said it would file a protest.

Binh said Vietnam has asked China “to immediately end similar acts ... that expand and complicate disputes.”

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have partial claims.

China has asserted its claim by rapidly building artificial islands, including airstrips said to be capable of hosting military jets.

Several other claimants, including Taiwan and Vietnam, have also built facilities on islands they control, but at a significantly slower pace and smaller scale.

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