China has warned Vietnam to stop construction work in the disputed Spratly Islands – the latest sign that trust between the neighbouring countries remains dangerously low.
Earlier reports said Vietnam had begun dredging work on one of the reefs it occupies in the south-west of the contested island group.
Analysts believe Vietnam is attempting to shore up its defences in the area amid fears that China may attempt to seize more territory.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said that Beijing had indisputable sovereignty over all the islands and reefs in the Spratlys.
“We urge the relevant country to respect our sovereignty and our relevant rights and stop construction activities and refrain from complicating the situation and work with China to safeguard and peace stability in the South China Sea,” he said.
Satellite images appear to indicate that Vietnamese vessels are carrying out dredging work after cutting a new channel on Ladd reef. The feature is fully submerged at high tide but has a lighthouse and a guard post for a small contingent of Vietnamese troops.
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