Tue, Jul 19, 2011 - Page 3 News List

Navy takes teachers, students to Spratlys

EDUCATIONAL TRIP:The Ministry of Defense said it should help young people better understand the Spratlys and government efforts to protect them

AFP, TAIPEI

Teachers and students from National Taiwan Ocean University yesterday take photos on a warship on the last day of their research on Taiping Island of the disputed Spratlys.

Photo: CNA

The navy has taken a group of academics and students to disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday, despite a flare-up of regional tensions in the contested waters.

A 14-member delegation from National Taiwan Ocean University completed a seven-day visit yesterday to Taiwanese-controlled Taiping Island (Itu Aba Island, 太平島), the biggest island in the Spratly Islands (南沙群島), the ministry said in a statement.

“The trip should help young people better understand not only the Spratlys’ ecology, but also the efforts of the coast guards and the navy in safeguarding national territory,” it said.

The group, led by Su Hui-ching (蘇惠卿), chief of the university’s Institute of the Law of the Sea, and Sung Yen-hui (宋燕輝), an expert on South China Sea issues, met President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) immediately after the trip.

Taiwan reiterated its claims to the Spratlys last month, along with three other island groups in the South China Sea, amid a resurgence of rival claims for the territory.

The ministry said last month it was considering deploying missile boats in the waters and tanks on disputed islands, as tensions mounted over territorial differences.

The missile boat plan emerged as China is becoming increasingly assertive in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea, following several years of relative quiet.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the Spratlys, which it is thought may be situated on top of large oil reserves.

Relations between Vietnam and China have sunk to their lowest ebb in years following recent sea confrontations, which reignited a row over sovereignty of the Paracel Islands (西沙群島) and the Spratlys.

Analysts believe the possibility of a clash between the two sides has risen, although Beijing has said that it would not use or threaten force in the South China Sea.

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