China's Defense Ministry says a military plane was dispatched to one of China's new manmade islands in a disputed area of the South China Sea in what is believed to be the first openly acknowledged landing of its kind.

A brief statement on the ministry's website said the plane flew to Fiery Cross Reef on Sunday morning to pick up a construction worker who was suffering abdominal bleeding along with two others who'd been injured. The plane then flew to Sanya on China's southernmost island province of Hainan where the three were taken to hospital.

Details about the plane and where it was based were not given, although a photo accompanying the report showed a Y-8 propeller transport and patrol plane being met by an ambulance.