The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Taipei yesterday said it has no comment on Beijing’s new move to require foreign fishermen to seek its permission before operating in the South China Sea because China-related affairs are under the purview of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC).
Late last night the council issued a two-paragraph statement, saying the entire South China Sea is inherent territory of the Republic of China (ROC) and thus the ROC enjoys all rights over it.
The ROC has never accepted the rules, it said, urging China and other concerned parties to respect rights of Taiwanese ships operating in the area, the council said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that the government should present a solemn statement to defend the nation’s sovereignty over the region, as well as freedom of navigation.
China’s announcement is “a matter of gravity,” Hsiao said.
China’s unilateral declaration of control of the South China Sea as a way to reflect its ambition to expand its military power would only lead to unnecessary tensions in the region as happened with its recent claim of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, Hsiao said.
Taiwan has administration of waters around the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) and the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, Hsiao said.
The government should side with countries that are concerned about freedom of navigation, including the US and EU nations, to defend that right, she said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the Chinese move was targeted specifically at Vietnam and the Philippines, which have been building up their military capabilities in the region in recent years.
“Sooner or later, China will declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea as it did in the East China Sea. It is just a matter of time. The risk of conflict is more likely to happen in the South China Sea than in the East China Sea. We have to get ourselves ready to ward off a war involving Taiwan,” Lin said.
Projects that have been implemented over the years — the installation of cannons and mortars on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島), and plans to extend the runway of the military airport on the island and build a new wharf — as well as efforts to explore oil and gas reserves in the region — can effectively deter the claimants from infringing upon Taiwan’s sovereignty, the lawmaker said.