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 has strongly protested China's recent move to send a plane on a disputed island in South China Sea. China's pilot flight to an airport "built illegally" on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, in territory that was "part of Vietnam's Spratlys," has "seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty," the Vietnamese foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Vietnam handed a protest note to China's embassy and asked China not to repeat the action. It called the flight "a serious infringement of the sovereignty of Vietnam on the Spratly archipelago."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying rejected Vietnam's accusations and told Reuters that the country used a civil aircraft to conduct a test flight to check whether the airfield facilities meet civil-aviation standards or not. The move was "completely within China's sovereignty,” said the Chinese ministry.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China will not accept the unfounded accusation from the Vietnamese side," Chunying said. Nansha Islands is the Chinese name of Spratly's.

China's move to send the aircraft to the disputed island in the South China Sea has been treated as a matter of serious concern by the US. Washington believes the move will accelerate the tensions between the two countries.

"We encourage all claimants to actively reduce tensions by refraining from unilateral actions that undermine regional stability, and taking steps to create space for meaningful diplomatic solutions to emerge," Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, said.

The South China Sea is a marginal sea part of the Pacific Ocean. It covers 3,500,000 square kilometre area from the Singapore and Malacca Straitsto the Strait of Taiwan. Many nations, including Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam dispute over territory and sovereignty over ocean areas—mainly two island chains of the Paracels and the Spratlys, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas.

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