China lands flights on disputed island

BEIJING • China yesterday landed two test flights on an island it has built in the South China Sea, the Xinhua state news agency said, four days after it angered Vietnam with a landing on the same runway in the disputed territory.

The two flights are likely to spark further condemnation from Vietnam, which launched a formal diplomatic protest at the weekend, and the Philippines, which said it was planning to do the same.

Both countries have claims to the area that overlap with that of China, which claims almost all the South China Sea.

Xinhua said the two planes landed on an artificial island in the Spratly Islands. "The successful test flights proved that the airport has the capacity to ensure the safe operation of large civilian aircraft," it said, adding that the airport would facilitate the transport of supplies, personnel and medical aid.

Xinhua did not give any more details about what type of aircraft had landed.

The runway at the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000m long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly archipelago.

On Saturday, China landed a civilian plane on the same runway in the Spratlys in its first test, which was also the first time it had used a runway in the area.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'China lands flights on disputed island'. Print Edition | Subscribe