Taiwan has informed neighboring countries that it plans to conduct a live-fire training exercise on Taiping Island (太平島) in the South China Sea early next month, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said yesterday.
It will be a routine drill, Hsia said, confirming local media reports that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) is scheduled to carry out a live-fire exercise from Sept. 1 through Sept. 5 on Taiping to reinforce Taiwan’s claim to the South China Sea area.
The ministry has informed neighboring countries of the plan, in line with international practice, Hsia said.
“It means those countries will be able to warn their ships to avoid the waters near Taiping Island during the exercise,” he said.
The Ministry of National Defense delivered a shipment of 40mm anti-aircraft guns and 120mm mortars to Taiping earlier this month to help the coast guard reinforce defenses there amid escalating territorial disputes in the region.
While installation of the new weapons has since begun, they will not be used in the upcoming drill, officials familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, ruling and opposition lawmakers will embark on an inspection tour of Taiping in the first half of next month, the officials said.
Covering an area of 0.49km2, Taiping lies about 1,600km southwest of Greater Kaohsiung. It is the largest isle in the Spratly Island (南沙群島) chain.
In the dispute over territorial claims to the area, Vietnam recently protested against Taiwan’s defense reinforcement on Taiping, saying that the move was an encroachment on its sovereignty over the Spratlys.
However, the foreign ministry said Vietnam’s protest was unjustified because Taiping has long been under Taiwan’s effective control and management.
“Our sovereignty over the island is undisputable and all of our activities and deployments on the island are legal and will never cause regional tensions,” the foreign ministry said in a recent statement.