Vietnam has shipped new rocket launchers into position on five bases in the Spratly islands in recent months due to the growing tensions in the South China Sea.
Several of Vietnamese islands in the disputed South China Sea have been discreetly fortified with new mobile rocket launchers capable of striking military installations across the vital trade route and China’s runways, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing Western officials.
Military officers and diplomats said that, in recent months, the launchers from the Vietnamese mainland have been shipped into position on five bases in the Spratly islands by Hanoi, according to intelligence.
According to the three Reuters’ sources, “the launchers have been hidden from aerial surveillance and they have yet to be armed, but could be made operational with rocket artillery rounds within two or three days.”
The Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the information was “inaccurate”, without elaborating.
Reuters quoted Deputy Defence Minister, Senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Chi Vinh, who said in June that “Hanoi had no such launchers or weapons ready in the Spratlys but reserved the right to take any such measures.”
“It is within our legitimate right to self-defense to move any of our weapons to any area at any time within our sovereign territory,” he said.
By doing so, Vietnam tries to resist China’s build-up on its seven reclaimed islands in the Spratlys archipelago. According to military analysts, this step is the most significant defensive move that Vietnam has made on its holdings in the South China Sea in decades.