Fresh water shows Taiping Island is not just rock: military
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, June 5 (CNA) A military official has reiterated that Taiping Island is an island, not just a rock, as he welcomed three Taiwanese naval ships that visited the island in the disputed South China Sea in late May, according to a Military News Agency report.
Led by Rear Admiral Wang Kuo-chiang (王國強), the vessels moored at the Taiwan-controlled island, where they were invited by Captain Feng Yun-sheng (鳳運昇), the commander of Nansha Command, to drink fresh water drawn from the island's Well No. 5.
Feng said that the fresh water is evidence that Taiping Island is indeed an island, according to the report.
Feng's assertion about the island came after the Philippines initiated a case against Beijing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague in 2013.
The Philippines contends that Taiping Island and other islands claimed by China in the South China Sea are only rocks with no fresh water and no arable soil, and are unfit for human habitation, so that no sovereignty claim can be made in their 12 nautical-mile territorial waters.
However, Taiwan insists that Taiping Island can sustain human habitation and economic life of its own, and is therefore not a rock as claimed by the Philippines.
Taiping's island status gives Taiwan a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone around it, but a PCA ruling in 2016 that downgraded Taiping to a rock, has limited Taiwan's claim over territorial waters.
Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim all or some of the islands in the South China Sea.
Taiping Island, which lies 1,600 kilometers south of Taiwan, is the largest natural island in the Spratly islands chain in the disputed area. Taiwan has controlled it since 1946.
The three naval vessels of the "Fleet of Friendship" are the Pan Shi-class fast combat support ship, the Cheng Kung-class Tian-Dan guided-missile patrol frigate and the Kang Ding-class Wu Chang frigate.
After the fleet arrived and moored at the island on its way back from a visit to three diplomatic allies, the Wu-Chang and Tian-Dan carried out a patrol mission on rotation, according to the military report.
During his stay, Wang also inspected other facilities on the island, including an airstrip, a fresh water well, a weather station, a dairy farm and a hospital.
The Friendship Fleet completed a 48-day goodwill visit to Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands before returning to Taiwan May 29, according to the report.
(By Matt Yu and Evelyn Kao)
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