China rejects Vietnam's protest over flight to disputed islands

File aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.
File aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (Bloomberg) - China's flight to a newly built airfield on a reef in the Spratly archipelago is a matter "completely within China's sovereignty," the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday (Jan 2) 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, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

China's flight to the Yongshu or Fiery Cross reef in the disputed Spratlys 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.

The country claims more than 80 per cent 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 neighbour 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.