Fri, Nov 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

CGA says live-fire drills around Itu Aba to go ahead

Staff writer, with CNA

Republic of China national flags flank a stele at the Taiping Island Defense Command on Taiping Island in an undated photograph.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

A three-day live-fire drill to be staged later this month from Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) is part of routine exercises and the government has no plans to reschedule it, even though it is to be staged close to the Nov. 24 elections, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) Director-General Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) said yesterday.

Lee confirmed the CGA would stage the drill from Nov. 21 on the island and in its surrounding waters.

Although Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei mayoral candidate Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) has called for the CGA to reschedule the drill to avoid raising cross-strait tensions ahead of the polls, Lee said it has no plans to do so.

“This is part of routine training that was arranged more than a year ago,” Lee said.

The exercise also has nothing to do with a reported US Navy drill to be staged in the South China Sea this month, he said.

In a news release on Wednesday, the CGA said it regularly makes announcements of live-fire exercises weeks before a drill to warn fishermen and other vessels, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for informing neighboring countries about such drills.

Taiwan controls Itu Aba, the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島). There are 200 troops stationed there, but no civilian residents.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) yesterday reiterated the government’s stance that Itu Aba is part of the nation’s territory and thus the CGA has the right to conduct routine drills there.

Six nations — Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei — claim sovereignty over all or some of the islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters.

Vietnam has previously expressed concern over live-fire drills in the area around Itu Aba.

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