>> A new chapter for military tensions on the South China Sea. Western officials exclusively telling Reuters that Vietnam has installed in its rarely rocket launcher system in the bitterly disputed Spratly Islands. Hanoi denies the weapons exists, but diplomats and military official say the rockets, called extra, are capable of striking land and infrastructure claimed by China in the vital trade route.
And as Greg Torode explains, this is not a minor development.>> They're very serious weapons, indeed. They're state of the art rocket artillery launchers, you could say a small missile. We understand Vietnam's put them on five of its island holdings, a triangle between China's three large airfields. So it's got them all in range at the moment.
>> The rockets are not believed to be armed yet, but they're a strong symbol of intent from Vietnam. It's likely a defensive move, but whether China sees it that way is a whole other story.>> Vietnam has far more islands in the South China Sea in the Spratlys than any other claimant.
So when China started expanding its islands, building large three kilometer runways on three of them, reclaiming another four, it really felt a sense of strategic vulnerability. It's gonna be very interesting to watch to see if this concern expressed in state media and so on about what China could see as a very provocative move.
An offensive move by Vietnam even though it is catching this in terms of self defense.>> China first seized islands in the area after a sea battle against Vietnam's Navy in 1988 when it was still weak. While experts say Vietnam can't match China's military buildup, these rockets could be a weak spot in Beijing's flank in a defiant play by Hanoi.