China defends test flight in South China Sea reef

World Today

China said its test flight on Yongshu reef is ‘within sovereignty’ after Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty by landing a plane on an airstrip Beijing built in the South China Sea.

China completed building the airstrip in the reef late last year. While security experts warned the reef could accommodate most Chinese military aircraft, Beijing reiterated that the airfield facilities are for civil aviation purpose.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Saturday that the flight is to test whether the airfield facilities can meet civil aviation standards.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China will not accept the unfounded accusation from the Vietnamese side,” Hua said.
Hua Chunying

Speaking of Vietnam’s protest, Hua said the bilateral ties maintain a momentum of development. She added that China hopes Vietnam can work accordingly to achieve “sustainable, healthy and stable” development of the relations.

On Saturday, Vietnam handed a protest note to the Chinese embassy and asked China not to repeat the action.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh Binh said China’s move is “a serious infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam on the Spratly archipelago, contrary to the common perception of high-ranking leaders of the two countries and (to) an agreement on the basic principles for directly solving maritime issues between Vietnam and China”.

Leaders from both sides agreed to maintain peace in the waters and build a relationship of trust during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hanoi in November.