China today asked Vietnam to stop construction work on a disputed reef in the resource-rich South China Sea, reaffirming its “indisputable sovereignty”, days after satellite images showed Hanoi carrying out dredging work in the contested waterway.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Riji reef and relevant waters,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media here today reacting to reports of Vietnam carrying out dredging work there.

“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 (SCS),” he said.

Latest images by US-based satellite firm Planet Labs showed several Vietnamese vessels carrying out dredging activities which analysts said is a precursor to bigger constructions activity.

Reports earlier this year said Vietnam had fortified several islands under its control with mobile rocket artillery launchers capable of striking China’s holdings across the areas under its control.

Vietnam has also been increasing its military cooperation with India, the US and Japan in recent years to beef-up its defence capabilities.

China’s assertion came as its navy yesterday celebrated 70th anniversary of the capture of the Spratly islands.

In compliance of the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, China in November and December 1946 designated officials to proceed to the Islands by four warships to take over the islands, illegally occupied by Japan, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“Recovering these islands was an important achievement of China’s war against aggression, demonstrating that China was firmly safeguarding the post-war international order and affirming the nation as defending its rights and interests in the South China Sea,” PLA Navy Commander Wu Shengli had said.

China’s claims over almost all of the SCS was contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The SCS dispute, however, took a back seat after the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines who distanced from the US and worked out a truce with China, putting the SCS dispute on the back burner.

Source: ToI