Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Kaohsiung mayoral candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) have suggested that oil deposits near Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) should be developed. They clearly have not given national security any thought.
Itu Aba is a strategically placed island far away from Taiwan proper, so no one would consider developing it for tourism purposes.
If oil were found there, there would only be oil workers stationed there, so how could tourism be possible?
Even if oil were found, Article 2 of the Mining Act (礦業法) states: “All mineral ownerships within the territory, exclusive economic marine zone and continental shelf of the Republic of China are owned by [the] state and shall not be exploited unless a mineral right thereof has been acquired pursuant to this act.”
What good would it do for Kaohsiung, under whose administration the island falls, if oil was found near Itu Aba?
Furthermore, sovereignty in the South China Sea is unclear, with claims overlapping, while China blocks international sea lanes in the region. This has led major countries to conduct freedom of navigation operations there, raising the risk of conflict.
Smart people would not consider doing business in the South China Sea, but Ma and Han are prepared to stir things up by advocating digging for oil, perhaps setting off a territorial dispute with China.
They normally say that Taiwan cannot defeat China, but now they are trying to create conflict and perhaps even clashes. It is either stupid or malicious.
A large part of the reason China is involved in the stand-off with the US in the South China Sea and that it developed the “road” part of its Belt and Road initiative is that Beijing wants to maintain free access to oil transportation routes.
It is incomprehensible that a mayoral candidate for a special municipality would come up with a plan that puts national security in jeopardy and that he would be supported by a former president.
Lin Shiou-jeng is an associate professor and director of Chung Chou University of Science and Technology’s marketing and logistics department.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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