Taiwanese lawmakers observe drill in Spratlys
ROC Central News Agency
Kaohsiung, Sept. 4 (CNA) A group of Taiwanese lawmakers visited Taiping Island Tuesday to observe a live-fire drill in the disputed South China Sea conducted by Coast Guard personnel stationed there to safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty over the territory.
Three members of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee spent around two hours on Taiping, during which they watched firings of different weapons staged to test the Coast Guard Administration's (CGA's) defenses in the event of an invasion.
The drill, held in different parts of Taiping, one of the Spratly Islands, included the firing of machine guns and 81-mm mortars in a simulated defense against opposing forces trying to land on the island.
Coast Guard personnel, responsible for defending Taiping, also practiced the emergency setting up of newly arrived 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars, but did not fire them. They are still undergoing training to learn how to operate the latest additions to the island's arsenal.
The weapons were shipped to Taiping by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in August to reinforce the defenses on the island amid competing territorial claims and escalating tensions in the South China Sea region.
"We're happy to see the collaboration between the MND and the CGA on safeguarding our territory," said Legislator Lin Yu-fan of the ruling Kuomintang.
It is necessary to continue strengthening defenses on the island, said Lin, who also recognized the performance of the CGA personnel participating in the drill.
Lin was leading the group that also included KMT lawmaker Chen Chen-hsiang and opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Chen Ting-fei.
They set out on a C-130 transport plane from the Pingtung air base in southern Taiwan and returned by the same aircraft on Tuesday afternoon.
Some members of the local media also joined the visit.
The lawmakers' tour followed an Aug. 31 trip to Taiping by a group of senior government officials, including National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen, as part of the government's efforts to assert the country's territorial claim.
With an area of some 0.49 square kilometers, Taiping is the largest of the Spratlys, which lie about 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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