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China defends test flight in South China Sea after Vietnam objects

Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh declared that China had “illegally built” an airstrip on the islet and condemned the landing as “a serious infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam”.

Hanoi’s Foreign Ministry said Vietnam handed a protest note to China’s embassy and asked China not to repeat the action.

China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the complaint, saying that what was a test flight to the newly built airfield on the reef, which China calls Yongshu Jiao, was a matter “completely within China’s sovereignty“, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.

Some 50 Filipino youth forming “China Out” sign during a week-long protest against Beijing’s claims in the disputed waterway at Pag-asa island in the South China Sea.

For the past few years, China has gradually asserted its claim to majority of the South China Sea by rapidly building artificial islands and airstrips that can accommodate military jets.

The US, concerned about the region’s balance of power shifting towards China, has taken steps to demonstrate their “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea.

The spokeswoman also said a civil aircraft was used to conduct the test, and that China hoped it could continue “sustainable, healthy and stable” ties with Vietnam.

However, regional military officials say they are logging increased warnings to aircraft from Chinese radio operators, including some from ground stations on Fiery Cross reef.

Subi reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, is shown in this handout Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative satellite image taken September 3, 2015 and released to Reuters October 27, 2015. According to the Journal, the flight already has drawn a protest from Vietnam, which accused China of violating its sovereignty.

Although the USA has no territorial claim, the government claims its involvement is for the goal of national interest, in keeping peaceful relations with all the claimant nations, and maintaining free movement in the waters of South China Sea, which is valuable for world trade.

The Chinese “test flight” sparked a furious response from Vietnam and concern from Washington over the weekend, ratcheting up tensions over islands which have been artificially enlarged by China.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the Sea, home to strategic shipping lanes as well as substantial oil and gas reserves.

Several other claimants have also built facilities in the South China Sea but at a slower pace than China.

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