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Lawmakers' visits to Taiping Island 'normal:' defense minister

ROC Central News Agency

2012/04/30 17:03:52

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) Visits by lawmakers to military and coast guard personnel posted on Taiping Island in the disputed South China Sea are routine events, Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said Monday.

Senior government officials and legislators often visit Taiping, as military drills are held on the island, Kao told the media shortly after an unveiling ceremony for a newly refurbished military aircraft at a military training camp in Taichung.

"It is a normal move," Kao said in response to a local Chinese-language report earlier in the day that Taiwanese lawmakers were scheduled to visit the island amid growing tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

The tensions include an ongoing standoff between China and the Philippines that erupted April 10 over a group of islands known as the Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines and as Huangyen Island in Mandarin Chinese, which are claimed by China, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Local media also reported that armed Vietnamese patrol ships twice entered restricted waters near Taiping Island in late March.

Controlled by Taiwan, Taiping Island is the largest of the Nansha, or Spratly islands, which lie around 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

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.

(By Elaine Hou)

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