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President Ma visits Pengjia Islet

ROC Central News Agency

2012/09/07 16:49:41

Taipei, Sept. 7 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou made his first-ever visit to Pengjia Islet near the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea on Friday.

Escorted by a military detail aboard two Mirage 2000-5s, Ma arrived by helicopter at 1:30 p.m on the islet, which lies 33 nautical miles off Taiwan's northernmost tip and 76 nautical miles west of the Tiaoyutais.

The president's visit to Pengjia came amid media reports that the Japanese government has decided to buy three islets in the island group from their private owner to underscore its claim.

Pengjia Islet is economically and strategically important because it sits in the middle of one of the world's four largest fishing grounds.

On arrival on the islet, Ma paid tribute to the work of the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) forces stationed there, saying they were defending Taiwan's sovereignty.

He also inspected a weather observation station and visited a century-old lighthouse on the isle.

He later held a 10-minute videoconference with the CGA command center and the agency's outposts in the Pratas (known locally as Dongsha Islands) and Spratly Islands.

The Pratas are the largest island chain in the South China Sea, while the Spratlys are a group of more than 750 reefs, islets and atolls in the area. Taiwan controls Taiping Island, the largest in the Spratlys.

Reportedly rich in crude oil and other natural resources, the islands and their surrounding waters are claimed either entirely or in part by Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

During his visit to Pengjia, the president laid out the details of his "East China Sea Peace Initiative," which he put forward Aug. 5 amid escalating spats among neighboring countries over the uninhabited Tiaoyutai island chain, which is now controlled by Japan but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Ma advocated shelving differences, pursuing peace and reciprocity and working together to explore resources in the region.

(By James Lee)

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