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May 15, 2020 / 10:13

Chinese maritime patrol aircraft spotted on Vietnamese islands

Hanoi said all activities in Vietnam's Paracel and Spratly islands without its permission are null and void.

Two Chinese maritime patrol aircraft have been seen on May 9 in Da Chu Thap (Fiery Cross Reef) within Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) islands in the South China Sea.

 In this photo, Chinese aircraft are featured in Fiery Cross Reef. Photo: iSi 

Israel-based private satellite image provider ImageSat International (iSi) on May 13 identified the deployment of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) KJ-500 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system and the KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft.

In responding to reporters' questions, Spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “all activities in Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands by any party without Vietnam’s permission are null and void.”

“Vietnam has sufficient historical evidence and legal basis to assert sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly that also comply with international law,” Hang said at an online press conference on May 14.

“Vietnam demands related parties not complicate the situation in the East Sea," she emphasized, referring to the South China Sea.

According to iSi, these aircraft were also featured on April 20, 2020. The recurring appearance of these aircraft suggests that this base may be the home base of the Chinese mission aircraft in the area, ISI said on its website.

According to War on the Rocks “The outposts have developed into hardened military bases that have given the Chinese de facto control of what Beijing regards as its waters. Similar to military bases found on the mainland, the South China Sea outposts integrated into a larger Chinese joint force system-of-systems that supports evolving PLA strategies.”

“Note Fiery Cross has recently become the site of newly formed Nansha (Spratlys) administration, which alongside the Xisha (Paracels) administration on Woody Island falls under Sansha City,” Singapore-based maritime security expert Collin Koh said on Twitter.

“This heralds the start of more militarization activities,” he said.