Vietnam opposes China sending military aircraft to Spratly Islands

By Trong Giap, Vuong Anh   April 21, 2016 | 05:52 am PT
Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on April 20 protesting China’s illegal landing of a military aircraft on Vietnam's Fiery Cross Reef in the East Sea. 

A Y-8 military aircraft landed illegally on Fiery Cross Reef to pick up three sick workers. Photo by ChinaNews.

“Vietnam strongly opposes and demands China to immediately cease and not repeat all the acts of infringement on the sovereignty of Vietnam,” ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh said during a regular press conference this afternoon.

Binh said the act of sending a military aircraft to the island has complicated the situation in the East Sea.

Vietnam has reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands multiple times. Activities that are conducted by foreign countries in the area without Vietnam’s approval are all considered illegal, he said.

Chinese media on April 17 said that a Y-8 military aircraft landed on Fiery Cross Reef to rescue three sick workers and fly them to Hainan Island for treatment.

According to a Chinese military website, the Y-8 number 9271 is one of four aircrafts of this type that are used for scouting, sea patrols and reconnaissance by the Chinese military. The act of sending this type of aircraft is considered a militarization move by China can use a civilian aircraft could have been used to transfer the patients.

This is the first time China has publicly landed a military aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef, which belongs to Vietnam’s Spratly Islands. The 3,000 meter long runway on the island is one of three runways that Beijing has illegally built on artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.

In January, China sent civilian aircrafts to do test landings on the runway. Vietnam's Minister of Foreign Affairs responded by sending a diplomatic note protesting the illegal deployments.

Binh said Beijing's went against the spirit of the Joint Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), the common understanding of the two countries’ leaders as well as the agreement on the guiding principles on the settlement of issues at sea between Vietnam and China.

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