Hanoi demands Beijing withdraw missiles from disputed islands

Hanoi has demanded Beijing remove military equipment from contested islands in the South China Sea, saying reported missile installations are a "serious violation" of Vietnam's sovereignty.

The warning follows a report from US network CNBC last week that China had installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on the Spratly Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam.

China did not confirm the new military equipment but last week affirmed its right to build defence facilities in the South China Sea, of which it claims the majority.

Hanoi called Beijing's latest moves a threat to peace and asserted Vietnam's historical and legal rights to the Spratly Islands, which it calls the Truong Sa islands.

"Vietnam... asserts that all militarisation activities, including the arrangement of missiles on Truong Sa islands seriously violates Vietnam's sovereignty," Vietnam's foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement late Tuesday.

"Vietnam requests China... not to militarise (and) withdraw military equipment that were illegally deployed on structures under Vietnam's sovereignty," the statement added.

Vietnam and China have long sparred over their competing claims in the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

Washington warned last week that Beijing would face "consequences" over its militarisation of the disputed waterway.

But Beijing defended its "peaceful construction" in the Spratly archipelago as necessary to protect its own sovereignty and security.

Though the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims in the sea, Vietnam has remained the most vocal opponent to Beijing's build up in the sea.

Tensions reached a fever pitch in 2014 when Beijing moved an oil rig into a part of the sea claimed by Hanoi, sparking violent protests in Vietnam.

In Japan-China ties, ibis outreach but no panda diplomacy
Tokyo (AFP) May 9, 2018 - China has famously used its cuddly panda bears as a diplomatic tool, but to mark warming ties with Japan it is offering a distinctly more angular gift: two crested ibises.

To some, the bird might not appear much of a looker: it has a bright red face with a long narrow beak that curves downward, and its eponymous crest resembles the wispy white mullet of an ageing rocker.

But after Japan's last wild crested ibis died in 2003, rendering the species extinct in its homeland, the country has looked abroad to reintroduce the fowl.

Visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang is expected to sign a deal to deliver a pair of the birds when he meets with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe later on Wednesday.

They will be the first ibis offerings from China in years, after Beijing began helping reintroduce the species to Japan with several donations over a decade ago.

Japan is now home to several hundred crested ibises, descended from just a handful of gifts, but environmentalists fear that the population's undiverse heritage may leave it vulnerable to disease.

The crested ibis has a storied history in Japan, appearing in artwork and literature going back centuries, and it was once so common it was even considered a pest.

But it was heavily hunted for its white feathers and its meat, and even its designation as a protected species failed to stop development that wiped out its natural habitats.

While the feathered gifts have garnered plenty of local media attention and will be warmly welcomed by conservationists, Japan will be missing out on a more iconic Chinese diplomatic gift.

Local media reported that Japan was hoping Beijing would loan it several giant pandas for zoos in Kobe and Sendai, but an agreement was apparently not reached in time for Li's visit.

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Beijing slams Macron warning on Chinese 'hegemony'
Beijing (AFP) May 4, 2018
China on Friday hit back at French President Emmanuel Macron's warnings against allowing a single nation to dominate the Indo-Pacific region, where many countries fear Beijing's growing might. During his visit to Sydney on Wednesday, Macron said that France, India and Australia shared a responsibility to protect the region from "hegemony" - in a remark widely interpreted as a stab at China. "What's important is to preserve rules-based development in the region... and to preserve necessary balan ... read more

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