Constructing an airport on Taiping Island (
"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 (
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 (
Additional reporting by CNA and Staff Writer