Recent moves by China to place anti-aircraft batteries and radar systems on disputed islands in the South China Sea violate Vietnam’s sovereignty and pose a threat to regional stability and peace, a Vietnamese government spokesman said on Thursday.
“The status quo is being destroyed,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters at a ministry press briefing, according to a Feb. 25 report by VietnamNet.
China’s moves have “militarized” the South China Sea and threaten the security of air and ship traffic through the strategically important region, Binh added.
By introducing radar, surface-to-air missiles, and jet fighters into the contested Paracel and Spratly Island chains, China has also violated Vietnam’s “undisputable” sovereignty over the two island groups, Binh said, quoted by the Associated Press on Thursday.
Accusations last week that China has placed anti-aircraft batteries on Woody Island in the Paracels have raised tensions in a region already grappling with Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
Woody Island, which the Chinese call Yongxing, is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. The island contains an artificial harbor, an airport, roads, army posts, a helicopter base and other buildings, AP reports.
Some of the world’s busiest sea lanes traverse the South China Sea, which is also a rich fishing ground and may contain petroleum reserves under the sea bed.
Taiwan and China both claim nearly the entire sea. Vietnam and the Philippines also have large claims, while Brunei and Malaysia have smaller stakes to waters and features that lie much closer to those nations than they do to faraway China.