Vietnam chides China on daily civil charter flights to troubled island

By VnExpress   December 23, 2016 | 09:11 pm GMT+7

China on Wednesday began daily civilian flights to the Paracel Islands, which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Vietnam has condemned China for holding daily civilian charter flights to an island in the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago over which Hanoi claims sovereignty, demanding that Beijing stop the illegal actions.

The operation of the flights to Phu Lam (Woody Island) by the Chinese side is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement Friday.

Vietnam resolutely opposes the illegal actions, Binh said. He added that Vietnam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over the Paracels and Truong Sa (Spratly), another island chain in the East Sea, the Vietnamese reference for the South China Sea.

China has begun daily civilian charter flights to Woody Island after approving the airport there for civilian operations, Reuters quoted the Xinhua state news agency as saying Thursday.

The maiden flight took off on Wednesday from Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan Island, Reuters reported. A ticket on the daily flight costs roughly 1,200 Yuan ($172.77) one-way, the newswire said.

In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded Paracel Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.

China has illegally occupied the islands ever since, but a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its sovereignty.

The Spartlys is claimed in part or whole by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

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