HANOI : Vietnam's civil aviation authority has accused Beijing of threatening regional air safety by conducting unannounced flights through its airspace to a disputed reef in the South China Sea, state media said Saturday.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) warned that the unannounced flights "threaten the safety of all flights in the region," according to a report in the Tuoi Tre Daily newspaper.
In quotes published in Vietnamese official online newspaper Zing.vn late Friday, CAAV director Lai Xuan Thanh said a protest letter about the flights had been sent to Beijing, as well as a complaint to the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). "Chinese aircraft have ignored all the rules and norms of the ICAO by not providing any flight plans or maintaining any radio contact with Vietnam's air traffic control centre," he added.
In the seven days to January 8, Vietnam logged 46 incidents of Chinese planes flying without warning through airspace monitored by air traffic control in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, according to civilian aviation authorities quoted in the Tuoi Tre Daily newspaper report.
Chinese state media on Wednesday said two civilian planes landed on an island in the Fiery Cross reef in the contested Spratly Islands, which have long been at the centre of bitter wrangling between Vietnam and its giant neighbour. The two "test flights" Wednesday followed an initial aircraft landing on Saturday, which prompted the first formal diplomatic complaint from Hanoi.