Hanoi: Vietnam has lodged a formal complaint to the UN over China's placement of a surface to air missile battery on a disputed island in the South China Sea.
The country's foreign ministry said Friday that these are serious infringements of Vietnam's sovereignty over the Paracels, threatening peace and stability in the region as well as security, safety and freedom of navigation and flight.
The statement said diplomatic notes had been issued to China's embassy in Hanoi and to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Chief, to condemn China's activities. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including small islands such as the Paracels.
Earlier, China had deployed long-range anti- aircraft missiles on a disputed South China Sea island also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, a media report said on Wednesday, even as US President Barack Obama called for "tangible steps" to settle territorial disputes in the resource-rich region
Satellite images showed two batteries of eight surface-to- air HQ-9 missile launchers as well as a radar system on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, Fox News reported
According to the images, a beach on the island was empty on February 3, but the missiles were visible by February 14
A US official said the imagery showed the HQ-9 air defence system with a range of over 200 kilometres, which would pose a threat to any civilian or military airplane flying close by, the report said
It is the same island where a US Navy destroyer sailed close to another contested island a few weeks ago. Woody Island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 years also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. The missiles arrived over the past week
The move comes as President Obama hosts 10 Asian leaders in California, many of those concerned over China's recent activity in the South China Sea
The US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and will support the right of all countries to do the same, Obama said on Tuesday, as he called for "tangible steps" to reduce tensions in the disputed and natural resource-rich South China Sea
The Pentagon was watching the developments closely, a defence official told the news channel
"The US continues to call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction, and militarisation of features in the South China Sea," the official said
In the past two years, China has built over 3,000 acres of territory atop seven reefs in the area. There are a total of three runways built on three of the artificial islands, the report said
China has said that it has a historical right to all of the South China Sea. Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim land features in these potentially resource-rich international shipping lanes.