《TAIPEI TIMES》 Taiwan asserts right to conduct drills on Taiping
An aircraft runway and a dock mostly used by Taiwan-based coast guard vessels can be seen in an aerial view of Itu Aba Island （Taiping Island） in the South China Sea. Photo from Google Maps
/ Staff writer, with CNA
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday asserted Taiwan’s right to conduct live-fire drills on Itu Aba Island （Taiping Island, 太平島）, following protests from the Philippines, which claims the South China Sea territory as its own.
As Itu Aba is part of the Republic of China, the country has the “right to conduct routine exercises at Taiping and its surrounding waters,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the government had issued notices beforehand to warn nearby vessels about the drills.
Disputes in the region should be settled peacefully by all parties concerned, and in accordance with international law, the ministry said, citing the government’s basic principle pertaining to issues in the South China Sea.
The ministry’s statement was issued one day after the Philippine government expressed its “strong objection” to what it described as Taiwan’s “unlawful live-fire drills” off the coast of Itu Aba, known in the Philippines as Ligaw Island.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs called the drills on Tuesday and yesterday an “illegal activity” that “raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea.”
It said Ligaw Island is an “integral part of the Kalayaan Island Group” — or the Spratly Islands （南沙群島） — over which the Philippines claims sovereignty.
Taipei and Manila did not divulge what kind of weapons were used during the two days of live-fire drills.
Itu Aba, the largest among the Spratly Islands, lies 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung and is administered as part of Kaohsiung’s Cijin District （旗津）.
Itu Aba is also claimed by China and Vietnam.
It is one of the two territories controlled by Taiwan in the South China Sea, the other being Pratas Island （Dongsha Island, 東沙島）, which lies 450km southwest of Kaohsiung.
The Pratas and Itu Aba islands are occupied by Taiwanese Coast Guard personnel trained by the Marine Corps, and quarterly drills are regularly held in both locations.
The military in 2020 said that it would temporarily post marines on Pratas Island amid reports that the Chinese military was planning to conduct drills in the area.
It did not reveal the number of marines deployed when they arrived on the island, or how long they would be garrisoned there.
The Spratly Islands, a group of islands and other natural structures in the South China Sea, are claimed in part or entirely by Taiwan, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
A coral reef stands exposed at low tide at Itu Aba Island （Taiping Island） in the South China Sea in an undated photograph taken by Coast Guard Administration officer Hou Chien-an. Photo courtesy of Hou Chien-an via CNA
An aerial view shows of Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, in the South China Sea, November 29, 2016. Photo: Reuters