The Ministry of National Defense will assess whether an offshore terminal for naval frigates should be set up on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea, Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) said at a legislative hearing yesterday.
Local media reported earlier this month that the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), which is responsible for the island’s security, is hoping to build an offshore terminal at the island to accommodate frigates of up to 2,000 tonnes.
It also wants to extend the island’s airport runway, the reports said.
During a hearing of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) followed up on the reports with Yang, whose ministry provides personnel training for the defense of the island.
Lin asked whether the ministry had brought up the idea with the CGA of having the wharf accommodate naval frigates or 500 tonne to 1,000 tonne stealth missile boats, to which Yang replied that no discussions had been held.
“We will make a thorough assessment before consulting with the CGA on the issue,” Yang said.
The CGA set aside NT$19 million (US$638,220) in its budget this year to finance initial planning of the pier reconstruction project, Lin said.
Yang also told Lin that the ministry’s “South China Sea task force” has been renamed the “West Pacific task force,” but he did not explain the reason behind the change.
Taiping Island, with an area of 0.49km2, lies about 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung and is the biggest island in the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) chain.
The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Taiwan, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The CGA confirmed on Monday that its personnel stationed on Taiping Island recently conducted a live-fire drill to help safeguard the country’s sovereignty over the area.