China Extends Hold in Spratly Islands

VIETNAM claimed yesterday that China has put up a territory marker on another reef in the contested Spratly Islands, continuing China's recent push to consolidate its claim over the chain.

It would be only the latest in a series of Chinese moves to strengthen its presence in the chain of islands in the South China Sea, believed to sit atop rich oil and mineral deposits.

Nguyen Quoc Cuong, the press attache at the Vietnamese Embassy in Beijing, said his Foreign Ministry called in the Chinese ambassador to Hanoi and lodged a protest on Tuesday.

"We demanded they withdraw that stone marker. It violates the sovereignty of Vietnam," Mr. Cuong said. The state-run Vietnamese News Agency said several Chinese boats cast anchor Saturday at Da Lac reef, landed soldiers and materials, and planted a "landmark of sovereignty" on the reef.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to queries about the Vietnamese charge. China said last week that it was preparing to hold a special meeting with Vietnam to discuss the islands.

The islands also are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Brunei.

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