Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Minister backs building airport on Taiping Island

ATOLL The island under Taiwanese control is part of the Spratly Islands, where China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have stationed small numbers of troops

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Constructing an airport on Taiping Island (太平島) is a must, National Defense Minister Lee Tien-yu (李天羽) said yesterday after confirming that he visited the islet last week.

"Neighboring countries have all established their airport facilities," Lee said. "We will regret it in the near future if we do not establish our own airport right away."

Lee made his remarks at the legislature when approached by reporters for comments.

Taiping Island, the biggest atoll of the Spratly Islands (南沙群島), is located 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung City.

The Spratly Islands, which consist of more than 100 small islands or reefs surrounded by rich fishing grounds and oil deposits, are claimed either entirely or partially by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Taiwan controls Taiping Island. China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have stationed small numbers of troops on other islands.

Lee said the planned runway, which will be 1,198m long and 7m wide, will be safe for aircraft as large as a C-130 Hercules. Travel to Kaohsiung will take seven to eight hours when the airport is completed.

"In addition to national security issues, the airport and the runway will improve transport between the island and Taiwan. Also, if personnel are injured [on the island], the facilities will shorten travel time [to a hospital] significantly," Lee said.

Local media have reported that the military will invite President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and legislators to visit the island following the completion of the expansion project, but the spokesman declined to confirm the report.

Additional reporting by CNA and Staff Writer

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