Beijing: Terming Vietnamese claims over the disputed islands in the South China Sea as “ridiculous”, China today accused Vietnam of changing its stand since 1975 after having officially endorsed Chinese sovereignty over them.

Reacting to assertions by Vietnam claiming sovereignty over the Paracel islands in the South China Sea which China refers to as the Xisha islands, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang told a media briefing here that Hanoi’s claims are “very ridiculous”.

“Large amount of historical facts had proven that Xisha islands are China’s territory since ancient times,” he said.

“Vietnam has always gone back on its words. The credibility of this country is very low,” Qin said.

The war of words between Vietnam and China over the ownership of the islands heated up in recent weeks after Beijing deployed an oil rig in waters close to the islands, which was staunchly opposed by Hanoi.

While naval vessels of the two countries rammed into each other hundreds of times, four Chinese were killed and over 100 injured in anti-China riots in Vietnam in which over 460 factories mostly Chinese-owned were destroyed by mobs.

Beijing withdrew over 7,000 of its workers from Vietnam and demanded compensation for the victims.

China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea which is hotly contested by Vietnam, the
Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, who are backed by the US.

Defending Chinese claims over the islands, Qin said they were discovered and developed during ancient Chinese kingdoms and patrolled by their navies.

He said Vietnam officially endorsed Chinese sovereignty in a letter to China from its then prime minister in 1958 besides reflecting the same in Vietnamese official documents and textbooks.

But Vietnam changed its stand since 1975 going back on its word. The Chinese government and people are resolute in safeguarding their territorial integrity, he said.

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