Vietnam wary of China's alleged weapons deployments in troubled waters

By VnExpress   December 16, 2016 | 06:35 am PT
Vietnam wary of China's alleged weapons deployments in troubled waters
A satellite image shows what CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea in this image released on December 13, 2016. Courtesy CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters
China is believed to have installed the weapons on seven artificial islands.

Vietnam has raised concerns over media reports that China has installed weapons systems on the artificial islands it has constructed in the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea.

“Vietnam is very worried [to hear] about this information,” Le Hai Binh, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement released late Friday.

Vietnam strongly opposes any activity that violates its sovereignty and militarizes the region, threatening peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, Binh said, using the Vietnamese reference for the troubled waters.

Vietnam has full legal grounds and historical evidence to prove its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, the statement added.

Vietnam’s latest response follows media reports released earlier this week that China has deployed weapons on the artificial islands it has built in the sea, a move Hanoi has bristled at.

China appears to have installed weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, on all seven of the artificial islands it has built in the East Sea, a U.S. think tank reported, citing new satellite imagery.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said its findings, made available first to Reuters on Wednesday, come despite statements by the Chinese leadership that Beijing has no intention to militarize the islands along the strategic trade route, where territory is claimed by several countries.

The Philippines, one of several countries with competing territorial claims in the sea, said it would not protest China's moves to militarize its man-made islands in the region, Reuters quoted Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay as saying on Friday, amid Manila's efforts to improve ties with Beijing.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore during an official visit by President Rodrigo Duterte, Yasay said the government will not issue any diplomatic protest to China via a "note verbale".

"Let them take whatever action is necessary in the pursuit of their national interest," he said, "and we will leave it at that, for the Philippines, we have our bilateral engagements with China." 

On Tuesday, Vietnam also denounced China for holding the so-called “70th anniversary of the recovery” of the Paracels and Truong Sa Spartlys.

In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracels. A brief but bloody naval battle with 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 Spratlys are claimed in part or whole by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

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