Chinese military aircrafts were allegedly spotted on a Spratly reef claimed by Vietnam in January.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed any activities in the East Sea without Hanoi’s consent as illegal, regarding recent reports of new Chinese military aircraft in the region.
Activities conducted in the Spratly and Paracel Islands without Vietnam’s authorization are “completely invalid and illegal,” the ministry’s spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters, as questioned over reports on Wednesday that China has sent two military aircraft on the Spratly’s Mischief Reef, which is claimed by Vietnam.
Hang said Vietnam has sovereignty over both archipelagos as defined in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“We expect countries to contribute positively to the maintenance of peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea,” she said, using the Vietnamese name for what is known internationally as the South China Sea.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday published pictures allegedly taken in January that it said showed two military transport aircraft on the tarmac of Mischief Reef, which Vietnam calls Vanh Khan.
The reef is one of seven artificial islands developed by China in the Spratly Islands, which is claimed by Vietnam as well as the Philippines. The alleged presence of military aircraft on the reef has raised concerns that China is militarizing the disputed islands.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the sea.