The presence of Chinese bombers on the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea “endangers the peace,” Vietnam’s foreign ministry said Thursday, another sign of disapproval in the region of Beijing’s increased defense activities.

China, which has for years been locked in maritime disputes with other coastal states in the South China Sea, has in recent months stepped up its presence and exercises in parts of the Strategic Waterway at a time when d other claimants are battling coronavirus outbreaks.

China has been accused of intimidating neighboring countries.

“The fact that the parties concerned have sent weapons and bombers … not only violates Vietnam’s sovereignty, but also puts the situation in the region at risk,” ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said during of a briefing, when asked to comment on the presence of at least one Chinese bomber. on the Paracel Islands.

Vietnamese and Chinese media have reported that China recently deployed fighter jets and at least one bomber, the H-6J, to the Paracels, one of two island groups in the South China Sea including China. claims historic ownership.

Hang did not say when the bomber was seen at the Paracels.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry addressed questions to the Defense Ministry, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said late last month that H-6G and H-6J bombers participated in high-intensity training in the area.

These included take-off and landing drills, long-range strikes and hitting targets above the sea surface, Ren said.

China has also deployed surveillance vessels, as well as coast guard vessels, to the waters off Vietnam and Malaysia this year.

Late Thursday, Chinese Coast Guard vessel Zhongquo Haijing 5204 was sighted around Block 06.1, an oil and gas extraction area in Vietnam’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, according to data from the site. Marine Traffic vessel tracking web.