Vietnam calls on China to withdraw missiles from Spratlys

MANILA, Philippines – Vietnam has asked China to cease activities and withdraw military equipment installed on artificial reefs in the Spratlys, an area in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where several countries, including the Philippines, have overlapping claims. 

Vietnamese media reported a statement of the Vietnam's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, May 8, in the wake of reports that China installed missiles on 3 artificial reefs in the disputed seas. 

The wording of the statement was diplomatic but clear: "Vietnam requests that China, as a major regional and global power, show responsibility in the maintenance of peace and stability in the East Sea, stop militarization, and withdraw military equipments illegally deployed on structures under Vietnam's sovereignty."

The statement was issued by ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang, according to VN Express, one of Vietnam's leading newspapers. 

Vietnam found the reported installation of missiles "deeply concerning, has increased tension and caused destabilization in the region, violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and is not beneficial to the negotiation of a Code of Conduct in the waters," VN Express quoted Hang. 

In comparison, the Philippines under China-friendly President Rodrigo Duterte issued assurances to the public that the country will not be targeted by China. Critics have slammed the defeatist attitude of the government. (FAST FACTS: South China Sea dispute)

In April, Vietnam also called on China to remove military jamming equipment it reportedly installed on the reefs.

Vietnam occupies the most number of features in the Spratlys and claims sovereignty over vast areas in the South China Sea. 

Vietnam has engaged in low-key diplomacy to handle its maritime conflict with China, but has not shied away from military actions to defend its claims in the disputed waters. (READ: If China can break off Vietnam, they've won South China Sea)

In 1974, a bloody battle ensued between China and Vietnam over control of the Paracel Islands located north of the Spratlys. Vietnamese soldiers were killed, a Vietnamese warship sank, and China gained control of the entire area.

The two countries also figured in several dangerous standoff sin recent years, including an instance where their coast guards engaged in water cannon battles. 

Vietnam also reported instances when Chinese vessels rammed Vietnamese fishing boats– Rappler.com