(From Reuters)

Vietnam rebuked Taiwan on Thursday for taking journalists to a disputed South China Sea island, saying the trip was “illegal and worthless” and against the international community’s wishes.

Aerial view of Itu Aba island, which the Taiwanese call Taiping island, in the South China Sea

The foreign ministry’s comment on Wednesday’s trip, the first by international media to the Spratly archipelago’s Itu Aba island (Taiping island), was an unusually fast response by Vietnam, which often takes days to raise objections about territorial disputes.

Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have competing claims to the Spratly islands.

“Taiwan sending reporters … despite concerns and objections of Vietnam and the international community, is a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty, escalating tension and with no benefit to peace and stability,” the ministry’s spokesman, Le Hai Binh, said in a statement.

Binh said Vietnam had sufficient evidence to prove it had jurisdiction of the Spratlys and activities undertaken without its permission were “illegal and worthless”.

“We resolutely oppose and demand Taiwan respects Vietnam’s sovereignty,” he said.

Itu Aba is coming into focus as the Philippines challenges the legality of China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, which Beijing asserts through a controversial and largely unexplained nine-dash line on its maps.

The media trip was part of a Taiwanese propaganda campaign on Itu Aba, which also included a high-profile visit by President Ma Ying-jeou in January.

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