Vietnamese concerned as China sends missiles to South China Sea island


Vietnamese concerned as China sends missiles to South China Sea island

Vietnamese people on Wednesday (February 17) expressed concerns over reports that China had deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Taiwan defence ministry spokesman Major General David Lo told Reuters on Wednesday the missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island. The island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 years but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a rare move, the country’s prime minister on Monday pressed Obama for a greater U.S. role in preventing militarization and island-building in the South China Sea.

In the streets of Hanoi, some residents said China’s action was “unacceptable”.

“China’s actions to deploy their weaponry into Vietnam’s Paracel and Spratly islands is unacceptable and extremely dangerous,” said Hanoi resident Nguyen Viet Hung.

China’s action “violates international law and Vietnam’s maritime sovereignty” and should be stopped, said student Le Thi Hong Nhu.

The action shows that “China lacks respect towards our country,” added another student, Nguyen Thi Anh.

But writer Tran Hiep said conflict should be avoided at all costs: “We do not want war, but we cannot back down. When they force us to pick up our guns we can’t do otherwise. But now when we still can avoid (conflict), then it’s better that the matter is solved peacefully.”

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year, and has been building runways and other infrastructure on artificial islands to bolster its title.

Images from civilian satellite company ImageSat International show two batteries of eight surface-to-air missile launchers on Woody Island, as well as a radar system, Fox News said.

The missiles arrived over the past week and, according to a U.S. official, appeared to show the HQ-9 air defence system, which has a range of 125 miles (200 km) and would pose a threat to any airplanes flying close by, the report said.

China last month said it would not seek militarization of its South China Sea islands and reefs, but that did not mean it would not set up defences.

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