Vietnam says reports of China artillery on reclaimed land 'bad sign'

SINGAPORE - Vietnam's deputy defence minister said on Saturday that reports China had placed mobile artillery weapons on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea were, if true, a very worrying development.

"If it has actually happened it is a very bad sign for what is already a very complicated situation in the South China Sea," General Nguyen Chi Vinh told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore.

The United States said on Friday that China had placed mobile artillery weapons on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea. Analysts said the artillery could pose a threat to nearby Vietnamese bases, also on disputed territory.

The development was described by the Pentagon as one that creates more "uncertainty" in a situation that has grown increasingly tense over the past six months after satellite images showed significant land reclamation activities by China. The US says the Chinese have added some 2,000 acres to five outposts in the resource-rich Spratly islands, including 1,500 acres this year.

China says the islands are in sovereign Chinese territory.

Vinh said he wanted all of the international community to work together to put a halt to China's reclamation activities.

"I always hope that the international community will always be responsible for the peace, stability and development of the region and not ignore that act of violating international law," he said.

On Friday, Vinh held a bilateral meeting with Admiral Sun Jianguo, a deputy chief of staff of China's People's Liberation Army, where he said he asked them to respect his country's sovereignty.

"We are military people so we are very clear and very frank unlike diplomatic people," he said.

"We were very clear of our position to maintain our sovereignty, to respect international law and to maintain responsibility between Vietnam and China".