Seven legislators from across the political spectrum flew to the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島, known as the Pratas Islands in English) in the South China Sea yesterday as part of efforts to highlight Taiwan’s sovereignty amid growing tensions in the disputed area.
The trip came on the heels of a visit late last month by several other lawmakers to Taiping Island (太平島), the main island of the Spratley Islands in the simmering region, for a similar purpose.
The latest trip was led by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山), a co-convener of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
The other members of the group were DPP legislators Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) and Hsueh Ling (薛凌), as well as their Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) colleagues Chan Kai-chen (詹凱臣) and Chen Cheng-hsiang (陳鎮湘), and People First Party Legislator Chang Show-foong (張曉風).
Chang said prior to the group’s departure from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) that she was very pleased to join the group on the tour of the Dongsha Islands, which are located about 450km off Taiwan’s southwestern coast.
“This is my first trip to Dongsha and I hope to look into the ecological and fishery protection measures in place there,” Chang said.
Tsai said the Dongsha and Taiping islands are Taiwanese sovereign territory.
“As tensions in the South China Sea have been escalating recently, we want to reassert our country’s claim to the region through our visit,” Tsai said, adding that the group would also help boost the morale of military and coast guard personnel stationed on the islands.
The South China Sea is seen as a flashpoint because Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim all or part of the 3.5 million square kilometer area, which includes the Spratly, Paracel and Pratas islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.
A standoff between armed Chinese and Philippine vessels has continued since April 10 near the Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyan Island (黃岩島) in Taiwan, over conflicting sovereignty claims.
Taiwan occupies Dongsha, the largest island in the South China Sea, as well as Taiping Island, the largest island in the Spratlys.