South China Sea
Vietnam has strongly protested China's recent move to send a plane on a disputed island in the South China Sea. Pictured: South China Sea, Mid-Sea. The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the South China Sea in this U.S. Navy picture taken October 29, 2015. Reuters/U.S. Navy/Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Handout via Reuters

Vietnam’s civil aviation regulators have called out China on its test flights saying that the country is disrupting regional air safety. China launched around forty six unannounced flights in the disputed island's airspace in the first week of January.

According to The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, China's flights “threaten the safety of all flights in the region." Reuters said that the state-run media released reports on Saturday about the matter. The organisation also submitted a complaint to the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO. It released a protest letter addressed to the Chinese government.

“ICAO is responsible for supervising all civil aviation activities in the world, and we expect that it will issue warnings to China after it finds out about its violations,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Vietnam’s civil aviation director Lai Xuan Thanh during a telephone interview.

According to the same report, China's foreign ministry has yet to comment or address the matter. Beijing claimed that the country was able to land planes on its newly-built airstrip on an island at Fiery Cross Reef. The area is part of the highly disputed region of the Spratly islands chain. Vietnam has also been claiming rights over the area.

China has been in the middle of rising tensions with other countries claiming rights to the disputed region after it build a series of artificial islands. According to an analyst, tensions could continue to flare up in the region especially as it appears China is trying to operationalise theF iery Cross airstrip to consolidate its hold.

"What we have seen over the past few weeks has become the new normal. Tensions ebb and flow in the South China Sea and… I suspect it could get worse mainly because of these facilities on the reclaimed islands which are being operationalised," explained Ian Storey via Asia One. Storey is a senior fellow and specialist in regional maritime security issues at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

"China is building three airstrips; my guess is they will become operational within the next few months.

"That means China will be able to exert a bigger presence… and that is likely to raise tensions and lead to more incidents."