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Vietnam protests China’s illegal aircraft landings on Spratly Archipelago

The Saigon Times

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HCMC – Vietnam strongly protested China’s deployment of Y-20 military transport aircraft to Vanh Khan (Mischief Reef), Xubi (Subi Reef) and Chu Thap (Fiery Cross Reef) of Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press briefing on September 23.

Hang stressed that Vietnam always keeps a close eye on developments in the East Sea and the country has full historical evidence and legal foundation to affirm its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos in accordance with international law.

Therefore, China’s illegal aircraft landings on the Spratly Archipelago seriously violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and international law, run counter to the Vietnam-China agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues, increase militarization and go against the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of parties in the East Sea and efforts by stakeholders in negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the waters.

“Vietnam requests that China respect Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, immediately end and not repeat similar violations, and respect international law and common perceptions by the countries’ leaders on maritime issues,” Hang said.

“Vietnam calls for China’s practical, positive and responsible contributions to the development of the friendly relationship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries, thereby maintaining peace, stability and cooperation in the East Sea,” she added. 

China’s state-run newspaper, the Global Times, last week said the People’s Liberation Army of China landed Y-20 aircraft on the runway of artificial islands on the Spratly Archipelago on September 16 to transport its soldiers back to China.

This was not the first time that Y-20 aircraft had illegally landed on the Spratly Archipelago. Satellite images released by Maxar Technologies showed that China sent the aircraft to its illegally built artificial island on the Fiery Cross Reef on December 25, 2020. 

Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross are among the seven reefs of Vietnam’s Spratly Archipelago that have been illegally occupied by China since 1988. China has built artificial islands with runways capable of receiving military aircraft on the reefs.

Regarding questions about scholar Bill Hayton’s discovery of a document from China’s Qing dynasty-era which showed that the Paracel Islands had no relevance to China’s sovereignty, Hang said the discovery reaffirms Vietnam’s claim over the islands in the East Sea.

Responding to queries about the European Union (EU) Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific that was unveiled on September 16, which sought to increase the EU’s presence in this region, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Vietnam highly appreciates the role and the active contributions of the EU in maintaining peace and cooperation in the region.

Regarding the newly formed alliance between the U.S.-UK-Australia (called AUKUS), Hang said Vietnam reiterates that peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and around the world are in the common interest of all countries and they have the responsibility to contribute to realizing this goal. 

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