Vietnam is in no position to question the Republic of China’s (ROC) plan to extend the runway on Taiping Island (太平島) in the contested South China Sea because the country has sovereignty over the area, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
In response to its Vietnamese counterpart, the ministry said in a statement on Friday that there was no basis for questioning Taiwan’s administrative measures on Taiping Island because sovereignty over the South China Sea region belongs to the ROC.
Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), is one of the two islands in the region controlled by Taiwan, along with the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), but the nation also claims sovereignty over the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) and their surrounding waters.
“The ROC enjoys all rights over the islands and their surrounding waters and it does not accept any claims to sovereignty over, or occupation of, these areas by other countries,” the statement said.
The National Border Committee under the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry earlier last week urged Taiwan to stop any activities or projects in the South China Sea unless they have Vietnam’s permission.
Hanoi, like Taiwan and China, claims sovereignty over all of the islands in the region, which is also partially claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
It said the moves by Taiwan violate Vietnamese sovereignty and international laws, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and go against the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea while also causing tension in the region.
An official at the ministry, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed a report printed in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) that a plan to extend the current landing strip on Taiping Island has been under deliberation.
Dismissing speculation that the extension was to pave the way for redeploying marines to the island, which is currently guarded by coast guard units, the official said the 500m elongation was meant to improve the safety of aircraft during takeoff and landing.
The runway was completed in 2008 and was constructed from a central road on the island after it was extended to 1,150m in length and 30m in width, enough to be used by C-130 transport planes, while the new project was reportedly to make the runway suitable for P-3C marine patrol aircraft.
The plan to extend the runway has drawn environmental concerns, an issue that was also disputed when construction of the runway began in 2006.
Allen Chen (陳昭倫), an associate researcher with the Biodiversity Research Center at Academia Sinica and a member at the Council of the International Society for Reef Studies, published an op-ed article in the Liberty Times on Tuesday calling on the government to take into account the potential ecological effects of the project, including its impact on the reef around the island and the green turtles inhabiting it.