Tensions are rising between China and its regional neighbors after Beijing tested out a runway on one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea.
A civilian plane landed on a runway on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, one of many islands and reefs in the South China Sea claimed by China and other Asia-Pacific nations, including Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Vietnam has lodged a formal diplomatic protest with China over its action, while a spokesman for the Philippines Foreign Minister said Monday it was planning to take similar action.
A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry says aircraft were sent to the island to determine whether the runway conformed to civilian aviation standards. Beijing launched a massive building project last year to transform the submerged reefs into islands that can support runways and other facilities.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday that China's test flight on Fiery Cross Reef "raises tensions and threatens regional stability." Washington deployed a guided missile destroyer within 22 kilometers of the Subi Reef in the Spratly's last October on an operation aimed at establishing rules of "freedom of navigation" in international waters.