China’s landing of two civilian planes on an illegally-built runway in the Chu Thap (Fiery Cross) reef, in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago on January 6, has sparked protests in the region, and the world.
In a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, in Manila on January 7, his Filipino counterpart Albert del Rosario, said such a move would be "unacceptable”, and expressed his worry that with the test flights, China was laying the groundwork for the declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), similar to the one it declared in the East China Sea, according to Reuters.
Hammond, for his part, urged rival governments to avoid provocative steps and affirmed that freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea is non-negotiable.
The UK will continue to assert its right to sail in the area, he said.
Following China’s first test flight to the reef on January 2, Japanese Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, expressed his grave concern about China's act, which he said, is a unilateral change of the status quo in the region and an attempt to make Beijing's massive and fast-paced land reclamation work in the disputed seas a “fait accompli”.
Japan cannot accept this act which is escalating tensions in the region, and is a concern shared by the international community, Kishida said. "Japan will continue to cooperate with other countries concerned with protecting the freedom of the seas."
On January 4, the US declared that flight operations at this new airfield in a disputed area raises tensions and threatens regional stability, and worries that Beijing plans to use them for military purposes, even though China says it has no hostile intent.
On January 7, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said China’s action is a violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty, a threat to peace and stability in the region, as well as maritime and aviation security, safety, and freedom in the East Sea.
Vietnam resolutely asks China to immediately stop similar actions that violate Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Truong Sa archipelago, respect relevant international law, and refrain from escalating and complicating the dispute, Binh said.
Vietnam will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, sovereign and jurisdictional rights in the East Sea by peaceful means, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and international law, he added.