The improvements being made to the airport on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) are for flight safety purposes and will make it possible for the facility to be used for humanitarian tasks, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.
“Completion of the work to strengthen the periphery of the airport’s runway will enable the airport to accommodate the air force’s C-130 transport aircraft, allowing it to carry out humanitarian operations from the island,” ministry spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said.
Lo made the comments in response to media speculation that the airport is being renovated so it could house F-16 jets and P-3C anti-submarine surveillance aircraft after the changes are completed at the end of the year.
“To fulfill [the country’s] responsibility as a constructive member of the international community, Taiping Island Airport will be used by the air force’s C-130 transport planes to conduct humanitarian missions,” Lo said.
Itu Aba is the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea, which have been the center of heated territorial disputes involving Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
According to an analysis by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the runway on Itu Aba is the third longest among those on South China Sea islands.
The runway being built by Taiwan is 1,195m long and can be used by cargo, surveillance and fighter planes to land and take off.
China’s newly built 3,000m runway on the reclaimed Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁) in the Spratlys is the longest runway in the South China Sea, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said.
The runway on Swallow Reef (Tanwan Reef, 彈丸礁) administered by Malaysia is the second-longest in the region, measuring 1,368m after it was expanded.
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