China Rejects Vietnam's Protest Over Flight to Disputed Islands

  • Test flight to reef is a matter of sovereignty, China says
  • China says it won't accept Vietnam's `unfounded accusation'

China’s flight to a newly built airfield on Yongshu reef in the Nansha islands is a matter “completely within China’s sovereignty," the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday in response to an official protest from Vietnam, which said the flight “undermines peace and stability.”

China won’t accept Vietnam’s “unfounded accusations” and hopes Vietnam can work toward achieving “sustainable, healthy and stable” development of bilateral ties, Hua Chunying , China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said in its statement. China’s flight to the disputed islands damages “political trust” and relations between the nations, and “goes against the common perceptions of the senior leaders of the two countries,” Vietnam said in a statement posted on the government website.

China has been building islands in the South China Sea on reclaimed reefs as it tries to beef up its presence in the area. China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea based on a nine-dash line drawn on a 1947 map for which it gives no precise coordinates. Vietnam has said it is considering taking legal action against its neighbor over the construction, after the Philippines lodged a similar complaint with an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague.

China’s flight to the airfield on “encroaches on Vietnam’s sovereignty,” Le Hai Binh, foreign ministry spokesman, said in the statement.

— With assistance by Tian Ying

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