MANILA, Philippines – Unlike the Philippines, Vietnam condemned the landing of China's bombers in the South China Sea, as it said such activities "increase tensions" in the region.
"Vietnam demands that China stop these activities, cease militarization of the area, and strictly respect Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands," said Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang in a statement quoted by Reuters on Monday, May 21.
Hoang Sa Islands refer to the Paracels, the islands claimed by Vietnam but not the Philippines. The Paracels can be found in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.
Hang added that China's bomber flights "increase tensions, cause regional instabilities, and are not good for maintaining a peaceful, stable, and cooperative environment in the East Sea."
"The South China Sea islands are Chinese territories," said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.
On the same day, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was "closely monitoring developments" in the South China Sea, but did not publicly condemn China, saying it was not its policy to "publicize every action" it takes.
The Philippines has no claim over the Paracels, which China seized from Vietnam in 1974. But "nearly all of the Philippines falls within the radius of the bombers," said the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
It was reported on May 4 that China also installed missiles on the Spratly Islands, which the Philippines claims. The Philippines also did not publicize any protest against China over this move.
On May 15, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the need to "remain meek and humble" to receive the "mercy" of the likes of Chinese President Xi Jinping.