Wed, May 21, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Vietnam attack on Taiping unlikely, Ma says

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Soldiers man a gun on Taiping Island in this photo taken Sept. 4, 2012. There are 40 such guns, with a range of 10km and designed to repel foreign vessels from landing, deployed on the island.

Photo: Lo Tien-pin, Taipei Times

Vietnam is unlikely to attack Taiwan’s military facility on the remote Itu Aba, also known as Taiping Island (太平島), in the South China Sea, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

Ma was speaking at an event at Greater Taichung’s China Medical University marking the sixth anniversary of his 2008 inauguration.

In light of territorial tensions in the region, Ma was asked whether Vietnam might attack Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).

“Our assessments indicate it is very unlikely that [an attack] could happen,” Ma said. “First, the troops at the base on Taiping Island are selected from our Marine Corps and they are very capable soldiers. Second, Taiping Island is easy to defend and difficult to attack.”

“Most importantly, there will be political ramifications behind any military operation involving the Nansha Islands,” Ma said.

He added that the Ministry of National Defense General Staff Headquarters has strategic defense plans and reinforcements can be deployed quickly to Itu Aba.

Ma was asked why the national defense budget had not reached the target of 3 percent of GDP.

“The US government is always saying that Taiwan does not allocate enough money for national defense and therefore is unable to procure more weapons from the US,” Ma said.

The government does not lack money for arms procurements from the US, Ma said.

Before he became president in 2008, the previous government allocated money to buy US weapons, but was unable to make the purchase.

“The unspent money was returned to the government’s general budget and accounting department, which was a waste of government budget allocation. It was quite a pity,” the president said.

“If the US can inform us in advance that there are weapons available for purchase, we will certainly have enough money to buy them,” Ma said.

Itu Aba is 1,600km from Taiwan proper and is also claimed by China, Vietnam and Philippines.

Reinforcements can reach the island from Taiwan in four hours using C-130 transport aircraft, Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said earlier this week, adding that Cheng Kung-class frigates can reach the island in 36 hours in favorable weather.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top