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President Ma to visit islet close to Tiaoyutais

ROC Central News Agency

2012/09/04 15:31:22

Taipei, Sept. 4 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou will soon fly to a small Taiwan-held islet not far from the Tiaoyutais to assert the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s sovereignty over the disputed island chain in the East China Sea, a Presidential Office spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The spokesman, Fan Chiang Tai-chi, said details of the trip will be released after arrangements have been made.

Fan Chiang confirmed the trip after local media reported Tuesday that the president is planning to travel by helicopter to Pengjia Islet on Sept. 9 to visit Coast Guard and meteorological personnel stationed there and listen to a briefing on the Tiaoyutais.

The president will then fly east to the edge of Taiwan's air defense identification zone, to a longitude of 123 degrees east, to "look over" the Tiaoyutai island chain, reports said.

Pengjia Islet is situated just over 30 nautical miles north of Keelung and 76 nautical miles east of the Tiaoyutais. It is the Taiwan-held territory that is closest to the disputed island chain.

Keelung, on Taiwan's northern coast, is located about 100 nautical miles southwest of the Tiaoyutais.

The president will use the visit to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais and reiterate his stance that the country will "not yield even one inch of its sovereign territory," reports said.

The president's spokesman also said the trip would satisfy Ma's goal to see all of Taiwan's territory.

"President Ma hopes to visit every outlying island and village during his term, " Fan Chiang said.

He noted that Ma went to two outlying islands -- Orchid Island and Green Island -- last week when he checked on typhoon damage in Taitung County.

But the president has never visited Pengjia Islet, Fan Chiang said.

The Ministry of National Defense said the Navy and Air Force will send ships and fighters to assure the safety of Ma during the flight.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that other countries have no right to say anything about Ma's visit to Pengjia Islet.

"Pengjia Islet is the territory of the Republic of China, and other nations have no right to express views on the visit," ministry spokesman Steve Hsia said when asked if there was a connection between the visit and the disputed island chain.

The Tiaoyutais have been in the spotlight recently and sparked a diplomatic spat between Japan and China after activists from Hong Kong and Japan made recent landings there to assert sovereignty claims.

The Japanese government is also reportedly finalizing a plan to purchase three of the islands in the chain from their owner in mid-September for 2.05 billion Japanese yen (US$26.15 million).

Ma recently broached a "East China Sea Peace Initiative" to help deal with the dispute, calling on the parties involved to put aside differences, engage in peaceful discussion and cooperate in developing the resources in the region.

Located in the resource-rich East China Sea, the island chain is currently controlled by Japan but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

(By Lee Shu-hua, Emmanuelle Tzeng and Lilian Wu)

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