Taiwan is determined to reinforce its defenses of remote islands in the South China Sea under its control, as well as to ramp up its claim to the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.
A naval vessel recently delivered a shipment of 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars to Taiping Island in the South China Sea to reinforce defenses there amid escalating territorial disputes in the region, local media reports said Sunday.
The weapons arrived in Taiping Island earlier this month and deployment has already begun, according to the reports.
If all goes smoothly, the reports said, a group of legislators from the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee will fly to Taiping Island in early September to review a live-fire training drill by the Coast Guard Administration personnel stationed there.
Also Sunday, Taiwan summoned Japan’s top representative in Taipei, Sumio Tarui, to protest a provocative act in which a group of Japanese activists landed and raised the Japanese flag on the Tiaoyutais that same day.
“The provacative move has added fuel to the tensions that are mounting in the East China Sea,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang told Tarui during the meeting.
The Tiaoyutais are currently controlled by Japan, but also claimed by Taiwan and China.
Meanwhile that same day, Chinese media reports said that China’s National Bureau of Oceanography has put disputed islands such as the Tiaoyutai Islands, as well as Huanyan Island and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, under its satellite monitoring and management system.
The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the latest developments in the escalating regional spat:
The 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars were delivered to Taiping Island in accordance with a resolution passed by the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in May, at a time when armed Chinese and Philippine ships were locked in a standoff near Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyan Island in China, in the South China Sea.
Lawmakers demanded that the Ministry of National Defense help the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) beef up defenses on Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly island chain, also in the South China Sea.
Covering an area of 0.49 square kilometers, Taiping lies about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
The CGA has been responsible for defending the tiny island since 2000, when Marine Corps personnel were brought off the island, but the Defense Ministry has agreed to help with CGA personnel training as part of the country’s efforts to strengthen defenses in the region.
To further enhance the country’s presence in the South China Sea, the Legislative Yuan has suggested that the Bureau of Mines under the Ministry of Economic Affairs should send an ocean survey ship to explore for oil or natural gas reserves believed to be under the seabed in the area.
The South China Sea and its island chians, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, are claimed either entirely or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Taiwan controls Taiping Island and the Pratas, better known as Dongsha in Mandarin Chinese, which is the largest island chain in the South China Sea. (Aug. 19, 2012).
United Evening News:
While meeting with Tarui, Foreign Minister Yang reiterated Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais and described the visit by the Japanese group as a “provocative move” that has fueled tension in the East China Sea.
Stressing that the Tiaoyutais belong to the Republic of China on Taiwan, Yang said the unilateral move and argument by the Japanese group of people cannot possibly change the reality and the Japanese government must immediately halt such action.
The Japanese group sailed from Ishigaki Island in the prefecture of Okinawa Saturday and arrived in the waters off the Tiaoyutais early Sunday, according to media reports.
The landing followed a visit to the island chain earlier in the week in which Hong Kong activists landed there and brandished flags of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China to bolster their claim that the islands belong to the Chinese people. They were detained and later deported by the Japanese authorities. (Aug. 19, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)