China just made another potentially destabilizing move in some of the world’s most disputed territory.
On January 4th, Vietnam formally accused China of violating its sovereignty and a recent confidence-building pact on Saturday by landing a plane on an airstrip Beijing built on an artificial island in a contested part of the South China Sea, according to Reuters. Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said the airfield, had been “built illegally” on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry rejected the complaint, saying that the test flight on the newly built airfield on the reef was a matter “completely within China’s sovereignty,” the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported.
The incident is yet another high-profile spat between China and Vietnam over the statue sof hte South China Sea. In May of 2014, China moved several oil rigs into waters within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, an unprecedented move that sparked a brief diplomatic crisis. Currently five countries with competing claims in the region have built airstrips in the contested Spratly Islands. FULL REPORT