Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday rejected the idea of opening Taiping Island (太平島) — the largest of the disputed Spratly Islands (南沙群島) controlled by Taiwan — to tourists, saying that the development would be detrimental to environmental protection.
Council for Industrial and Commercial Development chairman Albert Wu (吳嘉璘) proposed the idea at a forum organized by the institution for its members to exchange views with government officials, led by Chen.
Wu said his proposal was made for the sake of asserting the country’s sovereignty over the islands because Taiwan could manifest its sovereign power by granting visas to foreigners intending to tour the islands.
Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines lay claim to some or all of the Spratly Islands.
Chen did not address the issue of sovereignty, but rejected the idea of allowing foreign tourists to visit.
“Though I haven’t been there, I know that the [reef] environment of Taiping Island is supposed to be preserved. Opening [the island] to tourists goes against this,” Chen said.
Wu also proposed building an undersea tunnel running from Nanliao Township (南寮), Hsinchu County, to Pingtan Island in China’s southeast province of Fujian, the shortest distance between Taiwan and China.
Chen also rejected the idea, saying there would be enormous technical challenges that needed to be overcome to build such a long tunnel, at least 143km in length, which is much longer than the 50.5km Channel Tunnel between England and France, the world’s longest tunnel.
Chen also turned down Wu’s proposal that the government allow passenger aircraft flying between Taiwan and China to cross the imaginary median line of the Taiwan Strait, a symbol of cross-strait animosity, rather than taking a detour.
The opening of the median line between Taiwanese and Chinese airspace to flyovers would only benefit destinations in Fujian, the premier said, adding that the economic benefits it could generate were not worth the trouble of opening the median line.