Chu Thap (Fiery Cross) Reef in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) – China’s recent test landing of planes on an airstrip illegally built on the Chu Thap (Fiery Cross) Reef in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago has sparked concerns in the region, and around the world.

Many countries have officially raised their voices against China’s action, while scholars also expressed their viewpoints on whether to take the East Sea dispute to an international court.

Theresa Fallon, a senior associate at the European Institute of Asian Studies (EIAS), said China’s action has escalated tensions in the East Sea, which is considered one of the world’s “hottest disputed areas”.

China’s putting the runway into service directly relates to coastal countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, she said.

According to the expert, by using civilian planes, China is trying to persuade the world that the reclaimed islands are being built for civil purposes.

Fallon, however, also noted her doubts about China’s intentions when Beijing increased its management of take-off and landing procedures on the Chu Thap Reef via radio operators.

She forecast that Beijing would continue to reclaim islands in the East Sea, improve its communication system, set up long-range radars and build houses for Chinese staff there.

China may also deploy navy destroyers and military planes on these islands once aeroplane hangars and fuel storage centres have been completed.

Fallon called on regional countries to help attract the wider attention of the international community and promote international law enforcement, in order to curb China’s actions.

She also suggested the European Union send observers to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to assist the settlement of disputes in the East Sea.

Eric David, Director of the Centre of International Law under the Free University of Brussels, described China’s construction of the airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef as an act to claim its sovereignty.

Therefore, concerned nations should send diplomatic notes to oppose China and affirm that China has no right to build runways on the islands unilaterally assumed by China to belong to the country, he said.

He also suggested the countries ask China to address sovereignty-related issues by legal measures.

On January 2 and 6, China conducted test flights on an airstrip illegally built on the Chu Thap Reef in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago.

Responding to this act, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Spokesperson Le Hai Binh said the act seriously violates Vietnam’s sovereignty over Truong Sa archipelago and runs counter to the common perception reached by the two countries’ high-ranking leaders, the agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of Vietnam – China issues at sea, and the spirit of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.

It has undermined peace and stability in the East Sea, eroded bilateral political trust and negatively impacted the neighbourliness and good sentiment between the two peoples, he added.

Vietnam resolutely protests against China’s pilot flights and asks the country to immediately end, and not repeat such an action, and take practical and specific steps towards maintaining peace, stability, security, and maritime and aviation safety and freedom in the East Sea, Binh said.-VNA