Vietnam has started building a small airport on the disputed Spratly islands, escalating its tourism ambitions in an area claimed by several Asia countries and risking the ire of giant neighbour China.
Construction of the airport with a runway of 600 metres on the Truong Sa Lon (Large Spratly) island is expected to be completed by the end of this year, a tourism official who declined to be identified said on May 14.
Vietnam already has military facilities and local government officials on the island in the Spratlys, scattered South China Sea atolls where its navy clashed with Chinese ships in 1988.
Against protests from Spratlys claimants China, the Philippines and Taiwan, Vietnam last month sent its first group of tourists to the disputed South China Sea islands. On Tuesday, defense minister Pham Van Tra said that foreigners would be permitted on future trips.