Vietnam protests Taiwan's Spratlys landing
HANOI - Vietnam strongly objected Thursday to the landing earlier this week of a Taiwanese military aircraft on one of the disputed Spratly Islands, a chain of atolls in the South China Sea claimed by six countries in the region. "Vietnam resolutely opposes all acts violating the sovereignty of Vietnam over these two archipelagos," government spokesman Le Dung told a press conference in Hanoi.
"Vietnam requests Chinese Taipei to stop immediately this action and to stop similar actions in the region," he continued, referring to Taiwan.
A Taiwanese Air Force C-130 cargo plane reportedly landed Monday on an islet called Taiping, the largest of the Spratlys, before returning to Taiwan.
Taiwan has stationed troops on Taiping, and began building an airstrip there in mid-2006, over Vietnamese protests.
Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each claim all or part of the Spratlys and the nearby Paracels, and all but Brunei have a military presence on one or more of the atolls.
The waters around the islands are believed to contain substantial petroleum reserves.
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-Ban, whose Democratic Progressive Party was badly beaten in parliamentary elections January 12, is reportedly planning a visit to the islands to assert Taiwan's claim before presidential elections in March.
Conflict over the islands began heating up in November, when China established a new government district, called Sansha, to administer them. Vietnam officially protested the Chinese move, and Vietnamese students staged rare spontaneous protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City asserting Vietnamese sovereignty.
At a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday, Vietnamese and Chinese officials resolved to handle the South China Sea dispute diplomatically.
Deutsche Presse Agentur - January 24, 2007.