DEFENSE MINISTRY WILL ACT ACCORDINGLY ON VIETNAM TOURISTS TO SPRATLYS
Taipei, April 20 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense will act in line with the government's policy regarding the Vietnamese government's sending tourists to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, an defense ministry spokesman said Tuesday.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Huang Suey-sheng made the remarks in the wake of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement Monday to convey the government's serious concern about the tourist ship carrying 60 tourists and 40 invited officials to Hanoi's military outposts on the Spratly Islands after leaving port from Ho Chi Minh City.
Foreign ministry officials said that the ministry has called Hoang Nhu Ly, Vietnam's representative in Taipei, twice to urge him to convey to the Vietnamese government the message that it should exercise self-restraint so as not to trigger regional tensions.
Huang noted that the foreign ministry has expressed its stance to Vietnam and that the defense ministry will act according to government policy.
He stressed that the ministry has a contingency plan "to protect our territorial claims."
On the complaints by the Coast Guard Administration, which is in charge of the defense of the Spratly Islands, that the air defense equipment and ammunitions left by the Republic of China military are old and dilapidated, he said the ministry will address the issue.
Wire reports said the Vietnamese government's announcement in late March that it had decided to open the disputed archipelago to tour groups, has drawn concern from Taiwan, mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, all of which claim all or part of the island group.
Former Minister of the Interior Yu Chen-hsien traveled to the uninhabited Chungchou Reef in August 2003 to raise a national flag of the Republic of China in a show of Taiwan's territorial claim over the Spratly Islands, which straddle vital shipping lanes and fishing grounds and are believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves.
(By Lilian Wu)
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