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Vietnam warns China, says bombers at Paracel Islands violate its sovereignty

Hanoi: The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has issued a warning and said, ‘The fact that relevant sides (China) sent weapons and bombers … not only violates Vietnam’s sovereignty but also jeopardises the situation in the area.’ The Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands are two groups of islands, which are an inseparable part of Vietnam, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said. Vietnam’s stern warning to China indicates the dispute between the two nations over the South China Sea is worsening further.  

Paracel IslandsIn the past few months, Chinese activities in the South China Sea have become increasingly aggressive. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, China is bullying the smaller nations in the region and is consistently trying to pressurise them. In July, China deployed two of its advanced destroyers off the artificial island of Mischief Reef. At the same time, the country was also claimed of having deployed the Sukhoi-30MKK fighter jets on the Ruby Reef, an artificial island located in the Spratly group of islands. At the start of the month, the Southern, Northern and Eastern Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held military drills with fighter jets, bombers, fuel tankers, patrol planes and early-warning aircraft, Chinese state-run daily informed. The presence of the advanced bombers and fighters near the Paracel Islands, which lie within the boundaries of Vietnam, appears to be a part of the same plan.  

Paracel IslandsPrior to the move, China was trying to demonstrate its ownership over the Paracel Islands. Also, at the end of July, the country had announced defining the stretch of water from Hainan Province to the Paracel islands in the South China Sea as ‘coastal’. After China gained control over the Paracel Islands in 1947, it had identified the navigational waters as offshore, meaning located at a distance from its coastal area. By redefining the area, China has once again attempted to assert its sole control over the South China Sea region.   

Paracel IslandsHowever, despite engaging in activities aimed at fulfilling its ambition to dominate the South China Sea, China has now begun to receive strong opposition from the international community. The US, European nations and several other nations have adopted an open stance against the Chinese activities. This year, the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was convened in Vietnam under the theme ‘Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN’. The bloc severely criticised China, for its provocative activities in the South China Sea as also attempts to militarise the region. The ASEAN had earlier even issued a statement backing the forceful US stand.   

China’s PLA appears to have begun a military buildup in the South China Sea to counter such moves. The Xian H-6J, deployed at the Paracel Islands, is known as the most advanced bomber in the PLA Air Force. China was also found to have deployed two of the Xian H-6J bombers and few fighter jets at the Woody Islands, which are a part of the Paracel Islands group. Moreover, reports reveal that Vietnam recently has discussed the Chinese activities in the South China Sea with India.   

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