HANOI • Hanoi has demanded that Beijing remove military equipment from contested islands in the South China Sea, saying the reported missile installations are a "serious violation" of Vietnam's sovereignty.
The warning follows a report from American network CNBC last week that China had installed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in resource-rich waters also claimed by Vietnam.
Hanoi called the latest moves a threat to peace and asserted Vietnam's historical and legal rights to the islands, which it calls the Truong Sa islands.
"Vietnam requests China... not to militarise, (and) withdraw military equipment that were illegally deployed on structures under Vietnam's sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement late Tuesday.
Vietnam and China have long sparred over who owns what in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold oil and gas deposits. Tensions reached a fever pitch in 2014 when China moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.
The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea, but Vietnam has remained the most vocal opponent to Beijing's build-up in the area.
In response to Vietnam's statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters yesterday that China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands - which it calls the Nansha islands - and surrounding waters.
Washington last week warned Beijing of unspecified "consequences" over its militarisation of the disputed waters.