Vietnam’s Binh Ba island in the South China Sea. Photo: AP
The drills were “a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the archipelago, threatening peace, stability, and maritime safety and security, stressing and complicating the situation in the East Sea,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement sent to reporters. Vietnam refers to the South China Seas as the East Sea.
“Vietnam resolutely opposes (the drills) and demands that Taiwan not repeat similar actions,” Hang added.
With an area of 0.51 sq km, Ba Binh is the largest naturally formed island in the Spratly group, and can sustain human habitation and economic activity.
Taiwan has continued staging military drills on different islands, including Vietnamese ones, to underscore its claimed sovereignty over the island group. It seems to be a move certain to again enrage rival claimant Vietnam, South China Morning Post reported.
Taiwan’s drills are viewed to hearten Beijing which has long voiced its claims over the Spratlys. Beijing is usually angered by Taiwan holding war games to show its defensive strength in the face of persistent military threats from the mainland.
The exercises were aimed at safeguarding the integrity of Taiwan’s territory and strengthening the island’s defense capability, according to Tsai Tzung-hsien, head of Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration’s public relations department.
The South China Sea is one of the most contested patches of water in the world, with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam with overlapping claims in the region.
With an estimated US$5 trillion worth of global trade passing through the South China Sea annually, many non-claimant states including the US and Australia want it to remain international waters and have launched “freedom of navigation” operations.
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