China faults Viet­nam on is­lands

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By MO JINGXI in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton

China stressed its op­po­si­tion on Wed­nes­day to Viet­nam’s mil­i­tary de­ploy­ments on is­lands that the coun­try has il­le­gally oc­cu­pied in the South China Sea, fol­low­ing the re­ported de­ploy­ment of rocket launch­ers by Viet­nam on sev­eral of the Nan­sha Is­lands.

The move, which shows a fur­ther stage of Hanoi’s mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the Nan­sha Is­lands, will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, ob­servers said.

In­tel­li­gence shows that Hanoi has shipped the launch­ers to five bases in the Nan­sha Is­lands in re­cent months, Reuters re­ported on Wed­nes­day.

The launch­ers have been hid­den from aerial sur­veil­lance and have yet to be armed, but could be made op­er­a­tional with ar­tillery rock­ets within two or three days, it said.

For­eign of­fi­cials and mil­i­tary an­a­lysts told Reuters that they be­lieve the launch­ers form part of Viet­nam’s state-of-the-art EX­TRA ar­tillery rocket sys­tem, which was re­cently ac­quired from Is­rael.

“China has in­dis­putable sovereignty over the Nan­sha Is­lands and their sur­round­ing wa­ters,” the For­eign Min­istry’s spokesper­son’s of­fice said in a writ­ten re­ply on Wed­nes­day.

“China has al­ways firmly op­posed the il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of parts of China’s Nan­sha Is­lands and reefs by cer­tain coun­tries and their il­le­gal con­struc­tion and mil­i­tary de­ploy­ments on these is­lands and reefs,” it said.

Viet­nam’s For­eign Min­istry said the in­for­ma­tion was “in­ac­cu­rate” but did not elab­o­rate.

On Wed­nes­day, El­iz­a­beth Trudeau, di­rec­tor of the of­fice of press re­la­tions for the US State Depart­ment, said the US is aware of the re­ports that Viet­nam has de­ployed close-range mis­sile sys­tems in sev­eral of the out­posts in the Spratly Is­lands (Nan­sha Is­lands).

“We con­tinue to call on all South China Sea claimants to avoid ac­tions that raise ten­sions, take prac­ti­cal steps to build con­fi­dence and to in­ten­sify ef­forts to find peace­ful, diplo­matic so­lu­tions to disputes,” she told the daily brief­ing.

Trudeau ac­knowl­edged that it means for Viet­nam to halt ac­tions but stressed that the US calls on all claimants to avoid ac­tions that raise ten­sions.

China has in­dis­putable sovereignty over the Nan­sha Is­lands.”

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced a lift­ing of the ban on arms sales to Viet­nam dur­ing his first trip there in May. The mea­sure has been per­ceived by many in China and the re­gion as part of US re­bal­ance-to-Asia strat­egy that aims to rally coun­tries there to counter the grow­ing in­flu­ence of China.

Viet­nam has il­le­gally oc­cu­pied 29 of about 50 is­lands and reefs in the South China Sea. It has con­ducted con­struc­tion and recla­ma­tion work on more than 20 of them since the 1980s, and the scale of the recla­ma­tion has in­creased in the past two years. It also has built in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing run­ways and bar­racks, on the is­lands and reefs.

Jia Duqiang, a se­nior re­searcher on South­east Asian stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said it is Hanoi’s lat­est ef­fort to tighten its hold on is­lands in the South China Sea.

“By for­ti­fy­ing the is­lands with rocket launch­ers, Viet­nam is keep­ing up its mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the re­gion in a more ag­gres­sive way,” he said.

Xu Lip­ing, an­other South­east Asian stud­ies re­searcher with CASS, said Hanoi is try­ing to em­pha­size its de­ter­mi­na­tion to strengthen its il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of the is­lands.

Con­tact the writer at mo­jingxi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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