China's construction activities on Paracel Islands reef condemned

By Khanh Lynh   November 22, 2018 | 05:56 pm PT
China's construction activities on Paracel Islands reef condemned
Navy personnel of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea April 12, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Stringer
Vietnam's foreign ministry has demanded that China stop its construction activities in the Paracel islands, saying they are a violation of Vietnam's sovereignty.

"China's continuation of activities in the Hoang Sa [Paracel] Islands is a serious violation of Vietnam's sovereignty, goes against the common perceptions of the two countries' top leaders," the ministry's deputy spokesperson, Nguyen Phuong Tra, said at a regular press conference Thursday.

"It violates the Vietnam-China Agreement on the Basic Principles Guiding the Resolution of Maritime Issues and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties, complicates and causes tension in the situation in the East Sea," she said, using the Vietnamese name for the waters. 

The ministry issued the statement after the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the U.S. discovered on satellite images a "modest new structure" on Bombay (Bong Bay) Reef in the Paracel Islands.

The platform, measuring some 90 feet by 40 feet and topped by a radome and solar panels, first appeared in satellite images dated July 7, according to The Philippine Star newspaper.

Earlier the only artificial structure on the reef had been a decades-old lighthouse. While the purpose of the platform and radome is unclear, it could be for military use, AMTI said in a report.

"Vietnam resolutely opposes China's above action and demands that China cease immediately and do not repeat similar actions, respect Vietnam's sovereignty and international law and take practical actions to contribute to the development of friendly relations between the two countries as well as the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea," Tra said.

China seized the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam by force in 1974, and has since been illegally occupying the islands.

In 2012 China established a so-called "Sansha City" with Woody Island in the Paracels as its seat, and has built a runway capable of handling military aircraft and other supporting structures on the island.

The so-called city also covers a number of reefs in Vietnam's Spratly Islands that China seized by force in 1988 and the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines.

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