Lawmakers visit Taiping Island to defend Taiwan's sovereignty
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, April 30 (CNA) A group of lawmakers of the ruling Kuomintang visited Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island Monday to defend the country's sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea region.
The visit by three legislators to the island came amid growing tensions in the area that involve countries such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Legislator Lin Yu-fang, convener of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee, said the visit was aimed at pushing the government to increase its presence in the South China Sea and defend Taiwan's territory, sovereignty and interests.
"We have to strengthen our defense capabilities on Taiping Island," he said.
Coast Guard Administration personnel stationed on the island are equipped with combat skills and perform well in expelling invading vessels from other countries, Lin said, but the government needs to review the need to upgrade and increase the amount of military equipment stockpiled on Taiping.
Lin made the remarks at a news conference held shortly he returned from the trip to the island, which was also joined by Chen Chen-hsiang and Chan Kai-chin.
At the news conference, Lin also urged the government to construct a major harbor on Taiping to increase accessibility to the island, the largest of the Spratly Islands, which lie around 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung.
The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Recent tensions in the region include an ongoing standoff between China and the Philippines that erupted April 10 over the Scarborough Shoal off the coast of the Philippines.
Local media also reported that armed Vietnamese patrol ships twice entered restricted waters near Taiping Island in late March.
"We should also resort to peaceful approaches to jointly explore the resources such as oil and gas with neighboring countries," Lin said.
Stronger defense capabilities on Taiping Island will help Taiwan gain a bargain chip in future negotiations with other countries, he added.
Meanwhile, Lin also explained that the visit to Taiping Island was not a secret one as described in a local media report.
Citing the tensions in the South China Sea, Lin said it was better to keep the visit low-key to avoid unnecessary disputes.
The committee was scheduled to discuss government policies to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty over the South China Sea May 2.
(By Elaine Hou)
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