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South China Sea tensions surge as China lands plane on artificial island

The flight drew a quick protest from Vietnam, which said China had “seriously violated” its sovereignty.

BEIJING-China said it landed a test flight on a newly completed airfield in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a sign of its growing military capabilities in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Saturday that the flight test was carried out to determine whether the new airfield in what she said was Chinese territory conformed to civil aviation standards.

“Vietnam resolutely protests China’s above-mentioned action, asking China to immediately end while not repeating similar move”, said foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh in Hanoi.

“We will also be lodging a protest in due course”, Jose said on Sunday, January 3. “That’s the fear, that China will be able to take control of the South China Sea, and it will affect the freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight [and the] unimpeded flow of commerce”. “And that’s our view of it; it’s a disputed area”, he added when asked about the Chinese decision to land its aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the waters. We again call for all claimants to halt land reclamation, further development of new facilities, and the militarisation on their outposts, and instead focus on reaching agreement on acceptable behaviour in disputed areas.

Hua said the activity is “entirely within the range of China’s sovereignty concerns”.

The United States has expressed alarm over China’s island-making in the disputed waters and deployed a guided missile destroyer near Subi Reef in October to challenge Beijing’s claim of sovereignty in the waters around the artificial islands.

Japan “cannot accept [the act] which is escalating tensions [in the region] and is a concern shared by the worldwide community”, Kishida said.

The airfeild on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3000 meters, or almost two miles long, enough to accomodate large military aircraft.

Senator John McCain said in a statement that the lack of USA action was allowing China to continue to “pursue its territorial ambitions” in the region, most recently by landing a plane on a man-made island in the Spratly Islands archipelago on Saturday.

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