China today landed two more civilian planes on an artificial island it has built in a contested part of the strategic South China Sea, days after its first successful landing on the island that drew worldwide condemnation.
Two civilian aircraft took off from the Meilan Airport of Haikou, capital of Hainan Province and landed at the airfield on Yongshu Jiao in the Nansha Islands, also claimed by the Vietnam.
The aircraft flew back to Haikou in the afternoon, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China had last Saturday for the first time landed a plane on the artificial island in the strategic South China Sea, inviting international condemnation and angry protests from Vietnam which accused Beijing of “serious infringement” of its sovereignty.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week that China conducted a “test flight” to check whether the newly- built airfield facilities met the standards for civil aviation.
Hua had dismissed the Vietnam’s protests on the first test flight saying that the “relevant activity falls completely within China’s sovereignty” dismissing Vietnam’s protests.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China will not accept the unfounded accusation from the Vietnamese side,” she said, referring to the Spratly Islands by its Chinese name.
The strategic South China Sea is rich in natural resources and is also a major shipping lane for global trade.
Over half of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Indo-Pacific waterways including one-third of the world’s liquefied natural gas.
China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, resulting in overlapping claims with several other Asian nations like Vietnam and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
They accuse China of illegally reclaiming land in contested areas to create artificial islands with facilities that could potentially be used for military purposes.
The Vietnamese foreign ministry had said the airfield was built illegally on a part of the Spratly archipelago that lies within its territory.