Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Spratly Islands talks must include Taiwan: ministry

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan has sovereignty over the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) and thus should not be excluded from any talks to resolve the dispute over their ownership, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said yesterday.

"Whether based on history, geography, international law or fact, the Republic of China has sovereignty over the islands," Yeh said when asked to comment on President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan to visit Taiping Island (太平島), the biggest atoll of the Spratly Islands.

Vietnam, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim sovereignty over the islands.

The dispute has been fueled lately with the completion of Taiwan's airstrip on Taiping Island.

The Philippines' representative to Taiwan has repeatedly asked for news on the airstrip, Yeh said, adding that Vietnam had also expressed "deep concern."

"Taiwan expects to resolve the dispute through negotiations and dialogue and is opposed to any form of provocation," Yeh said. "We regret that Taiwan has consistently been excluded from any dialogue."

At a separate news conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳) announced that branches of the ministry's Bureau of Councilor Affairs in the south, east and center of the country would be upgraded to MOFA regional offices today.

"Many people, as well as local governments in other parts of the country, have shown their interest in diplomacy," Huang said. "Many local governments have also voiced to the ministry their need for a channel to communicate with other countries."

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