The Ministry of National Defense yesterday said the military was helping the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) strengthen its defense capabilities on islands in the South China Sea, adding that whether it would deploy marines to the area depended on instructions from the National Security Council.
Ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said the military was helping the CGA recruit personnel specializing in artillery and was also providing training to coast guard personnel stationed on the islands with live-fire exercises.
The goal is to let the coast guard units have capabilities -similar to that of the marines, Lo said.
CGA personnel have been stationed on the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島), also known as the Pratas Islands, and the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) since the marines pulled out in 1999, but legislators have asked the government to deploy military personnel or expand defense capabilities there.
Legislators have also asked the government to deploy advanced short-range air defense missiles on the islands.
Local media reports said yesterday that some military officials supported the idea and that the marines have also been ordered to prepare for the return.
However, Lo said that because Taiwan’s claims to the contested area pertained to national security, the council had the final word, adding that the ministry would follow its instructions.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers plan to visit the Dongsha Islands on Thursday in a bid to “manifest sovereignty” over the area, following a joint inspection last week by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), two of his colleagues and Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) to Taiping Island (太平島) in the Spratlys.
The recent call for a stronger military presence on Taiping Island followed allegations that a Vietnamese military boat opened fire on Taiwanese coast guard personnel stationed on the island in March.