by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) Feb 19, 2016
Vietnam on Friday hit out at China's deployment of missiles on a disputed island chain, saying Beijing had "seriously violated" its sovereignty as international censure mounted over the apparent militarisation of the hotly-contested zone.
Chinese state media on Thursday confirmed the presence of unspecified weapons on Woody Island, part of the Paracels chain.
The admission came after Fox News reported that surface-to-air weapons had arrived there in the past week -- although Chinese media suggested they have been in place for longer.
Vietnamese authorities handed "a note of objection" to the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on Friday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"These were moves that seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelagoes," spokesperson Le hai Binh said Friday, using the Vietnamese name for the Paracels.
"Threatening peace and stability in the region as well as security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation. Vietnam requests China to immediately end those wrongful acts."
China claims all of the Paracels, though Hanoi and Taipei have overlapping claims.
Earlier on Friday Australia urged China to refrain from the "militarisation of islands", a day after the United States slammed Beijing for deploying missiles in the disputed South China Sea.
Tensions in the sea -- through which a third of the world's oil passes -- have mounted in recent months after China transformed contested reefs in the Spratly islands further south into artificial islands capable of supporting military facilities.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines also lay claim to parts of the sea.
US President Barack Obama this week hosted Southeast Asian leaders for a summit.
The US wants to shore-up its regional alliances with a view to avoiding flashpoints in the seas and keeping shipping lanes open.
The US and Australia have carried out several so-called "Freedom of Navigation" overflights and sail-bys in the region, which China has described as "provocations".
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