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Vietnam Asks China to Withdraw Missiles From South China Sea

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DigitalGlobe closeup imagery of one of the Hughes Reefs in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea. 

Photographer: DigitalGlobe/ScapeWare3d via Getty Images

Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) -- Vietnam has requested that China withdraw its military equipment from South China Sea outposts, saying its deployment seriously violates Hanoi's sovereignty, increases tension and destabilizes the region.

CNBC reported last week that China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three outposts in the contested Spratly Islands which are also claimed by Vietnam, among others.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement that Vietnam has sufficient legal basis and historical evidence to affirm its sovereignty over the Spratlys and the Paracels in the South China Sea.

"Vietnam requests that China ... show its responsibility in maintaining peace, stability in the East Sea, do not carry out militarization activities, withdraw military equipment illegally installed on features under Vietnam's sovereignty," she said, using Vietnam's name for the South China Sea.

In Manila, the Philippines, which claims ownership of the three Chinese man-made islands where missile systems have reportedly been installed, Sen. Panfilo Lacson backed calls for a Philippine Senate investigation. He also urged the convening of the National Security Council, a top-level grouping of political and security leaders, to tackle threats posed by the purported Chinese missiles.

"If up to now, the government still has not confirmed the presence of a foreign country's missiles in one of our islands, we may have a serious national security problem," Lacson said in a statement.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has backed away from his predecessor's vocal criticism of China's expansionist moves in the disputed waters and reached out to China for trade and investment.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday that "peaceful constructions and deployed defensive facilities" were aimed to "meet the need of safeguarding national sovereignty and security, which is also the right of a sovereign state."

Hua denied such work constituted militarization and accused the U.S. of increasing military tensions in the area, adding that "they should be prepared for the consequences."

China has constructed seven man-made islands and equipped them with runways, hangers, radar and missile stations, further cementing its vast territorial claims in the busy waterway. The U.S. says that militarization of the South China Sea runs contrary to Chinese President Xi Jinping's assurances to Washington.

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