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Tensions Swell as China Lands Civilian Plane on Islands in S China Sea

Sputnik News

16:52 05.01.2016(updated 19:27 05.01.2016)

Chinese foreign ministry officials confirmed on Saturday that a test flight by a civilian plane landed on one of the islands in the South China Sea, the first time Beijing has used a runway in the area.

The landing was not a surprise, as China has been building runways on the artificial islands for over a year.

China's first landing of a plane on one of its new island runways in the South China Sea shows Beijing's facilities in the disputed region are being finished on schedule and military conflicts will certainly follow, foreign officials and analysts said, Reuters reported.

Following China's plane landing, Vietnam launched a formal diplomatic protest, while Philippines Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose said Manila planned to do the same. Both have claims to the area that intersect with China.

Similarly, Senator John McCain on Monday blasted Obama administration for lack of action in South China Sea.

He said the President Barack Obama's administration was "either unable to manage the complexities of interagency national security decision making or simply too risk averse to do what is necessary to safeguard the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific."

In October, the Pentagon began conducting patrols within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands.

The runway which is located at the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters long and is one of three China was building on artificial islands constructed from seven reefs and atolls in the Spratlys archipelago.

Regarding the test flight the foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was intended to check whether the runway met civilian aviation standards and fell "completely within China's sovereignty."

Talking about McCain's remarks on Tuesday, she said: "We hope the US can take an objective and fair attitude, and not make statements that confuse the situation and are harmful to regional peace and stability," she said.

Chinese officials have repeatedly said that the new islands would be mostly for civilian use, such as coast guard activity and fishing research.


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