Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty by landing a plane Saturday on an airstrip Beijing has built on an artificial island in a contested part of the South China Sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the airfield had been “built illegally” on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, in territory that was “part of Vietnam’s Spratlys”, Reuters reported.
Le said Vietnam handed a protest note to the Chinese embassy and asked China not to repeat the action.
He called the flight “a serious infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam on the Spratly archipelago”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected the complaint, saying that what was a test flight to the newly built airfield on the reef, which China calls Yongshu Jiao, was a matter “completely within China’s sovereignty”, official news agency Xinhua reported.
Hua said China used a civil aircraft to conduct the flight to test whether the airfield facilities meet civil-aviation standards.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters,” she said, referring to the Spratly’s by their Chinese name.
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