Suspected Chinese missile launch pads put Vietnam on alert

By VnExpress   February 23, 2017 | 07:04 am PT
Suspected Chinese missile launch pads put Vietnam on alert
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. Navy/Handout via Reuters/File Photo
U.S. reports claim China has constructed military bases on artificial islands in disputed waters.

Vietnam is looking to clarify media reports that claim China has nearly completed several missile launch sites on artificial islands in the East Sea, internationally referred to as the South China Sea.

The structures are believed to be designed to house long-range surface-to-air missiles.

Vietnam has called on other parties to act responsibly and refrain from taking military actions that may worsen the situation in the region, foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement on Thursday.

Any construction activities on the islands and reefs by other parties in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos without Vietnam’s permission are illegal, he added.

Binh said the country has full legal grounds and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

China has nearly finished building almost two dozen structures on artificial islands in the South China Sea that appear to house long-range surface-to-air missiles, two U.S. officials told Reuters.

The development is likely to raise questions about whether and how the United States will respond, given its vows to take a tough line on China in the South China Sea.

"It is not like the Chinese to build anything in the South China Sea just to build it, and these structures resemble others that house SAM batteries, so the logical conclusion is that's what they are for," said a U.S. intelligence official, referring to surface-to-air missiles.

A Pentagon spokesman said the United States remained committed to "non-militarization in the South China Sea", and urged all claimants to take actions consistent with international law.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday he was aware of the report, but did not say if China was planning on placing missiles on the reefs.

In December last year, Vietnam also raised concerns over media reports that China had installed weapons systems on the artificial islands it had constructed in the area.

In 1974, China took over the Hoang Sa islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.

Truong Sa is claimed in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

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