Vietnam verifying reports on Chinese lighthouses in Paracels

By Truong Son, Thanh Nien News

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A Vietnamese coastguard ship patrols the waters off the Paracel Islands in the East Sea. Photo: Doc Lap A Vietnamese coastguard ship patrols the waters off the Paracel Islands in the East Sea. Photo: Doc Lap

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Vietnam is verifying reports that China intends to build lighthouses on five islands in Vietnam’s Paracel archipelago, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Hai Binh has said.

The state-run China News Service reported Thursday that Chinese officials have been surveying construction sites for lighthouses on five islands and reefs since July 27.

The English names for the locations are North Reef, Antelope Reef, Drummond Island, South Sand and Pyramid Rock.

By August 4, planned construction sites and alternative locations for the lighthouses “had been initially selected,” the news service reported, citing a Chinese navigation official.

The news service also cited this official, named Yang Qing, as explaining that the lighthouses were necessary as a lack of navigational aids and charts directly undermine the safety and regulation of ships traveling through the area.

“Vietnam’s relevant agencies are actively verifying this information," Binh said at a press briefing on Thursday afternoon. "However, we have repeatedly affirmed Vietnam’s indisputable sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes. Therefore, all Chinese activities in the two island chains are null and void.”  

Answering about Vietnam’s response to a report that China will use deep-water seismic vessel HYSY 721 to carry out a geological survey for oil and gas exploration in the East Sea -- the Vietnamese reference for the South China Sea -- Binh said that all activities implemented by any parties in the sea must comply with international laws and respect the sovereignty and jurisdiction of coastal countries.

Using maps featuring the now-notorious “U-shaped line," China has claimed around 90 percent of the East Sea,  which is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and many rich fisheries.

China’s claim loops down to a point about 1,800 kilometers below Hainan Island--its southernmost province. The map swallows areas claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

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