The Philippines has officially declined an invitation from Taiwan to visit Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the disputed South China Sea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, while rebutting Manila’s argument that Itu Aba is a rock and not an island.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) extended the invitation in March to the Philippines to send government representatives or lawyers to visit Taiping to see the place for themselves, as questions have been raised recently about whether the 0.51km2 Itu Aba, the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), can be defined as an island under international law.
Ma also invited the five arbitrators from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, who are dealing with a case brought by the Philippines against China, which has triggered interest in how the land formations in the South China Sea should be defined.
The Philippines formally declined Taiwan’s invitation, while The Hague has yet to respond, the ministry said in a statement.
The Philippines has continued to make statements about Itu Aba that Taiwan considers to be false, which has undermined peace in the region, the ministry said.
Manila is hoping that the court will rule that many of the formations claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea are reefs or rocks, entitled to no more than 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of territorial waters, rather than islands, which generate 200-nautical-mile economic zones.
Such a ruling would negate many of China’s claims to fishing or resource rights in the region.
Taiwan has taken an interest in the case because a lawyer for the Philippines has argued that Itu Aba is not an island, but a rock that cannot support human habitation.
As part of Taiwan’s efforts to seek international support for its stance that Itu Aba meets the definition of an island, it has arranged for international media representatives and experts over the past few months to visit the island to see it for themselves.
Ma also visited Itu Aba in January. The island lies about 1,600km southwest of Kaohsiung.
Itu Aba has its own sources of natural, abundant, potable water, as well as naturally formed fertile soil, as well as fruit, vegetables, chickens and goats that have been raised there, providing ample evidence that it is fit for human habitation and can support an economic life of its own, meeting the definition of an island under international law, the ministry said.
In yesterday’s statement, the ministry once again extended an invitation to the tribunal panel to visit Itu Aba so that it does not make a ruling based on only partial information.
“If the court of arbitration does not respond to our invitation, it should not make a ruling on the legal status of Taiping,” the ministry said.
Should the final ruling undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty over the South China Sea and maritime rights in the region, it would not be legally binding for Taiwan, the ministry said.
The Republic of China government would not recognize or accept such a ruling, it added.
Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim all or part of the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, which is thought to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves.
China appears to have built mockups of a port in northeastern Taiwan and a military vessel docked there, with the aim of using them as targets to test its ballistic missiles, a retired naval officer said yesterday. Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a former lieutenant commander in Taiwan’s navy, wrote on Facebook that satellite images appeared to show simulated targets in a desert in China’s Xinjiang region that resemble the Suao naval base in Yilan County and a Kidd-class destroyer that usually docks there. Lu said he compared the mockup port to US naval bases in Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, and in Subic Bay
Police are investigating the death of a Formosan black bear discovered on Tuesday buried near an industrial road in Nantou County, with initial evidence indicating that it was shot accidentally by a hunter. The bear had been caught in wildlife traps at least five times before, three times since 2020. Codenamed No. 711, the bear received extensive media coverage last year after it was discovered trapped twice in less than two months in the Taichung mountains. After its most recent ensnarement last month, the bear was released in the Dandashan (丹大山) area in Nantou County’s Sinyi Township (信義). However, officials became concerned after the
DETERRENCE: US National Security Council Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell said cross-strait affairs are on the agenda at the US-ASEAN Special Leaders’ Summit The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday thanked the Czech Senate for passing a resolution supporting Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO and other international organizations for the second consecutive year. The resolution was passed on Wednesday with 51 votes in favor, one opposed and 11 abstentions. In addition to the WHO, it also called for Taiwan’s participation in the “meetings, mechanisms and activities” of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the International Civil Aviation Organization and Interpol. In its opening, the resolution states that the Czech Republic “considers Taiwan as one of its key partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” while noting its
The majority of parents surveyed in northern Taiwan favor the suspension of all on-site classes at schools from the junior-high level and below amid a surge in domestic COVID-19 infections, parent groups said yesterday. About 84.4 percent of respondents in a survey of 2,912 parents in northern Taiwan, where the outbreak is the most serious, said they supported suspending classes, the Action Alliance on Basic Education, the Taiwan Parents Protect Women and Children Association, and the Taiwan Love Children Association said. The groups distributed questionnaires to parents in New Taipei City, Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan and Hsinchu city and county from Saturday morning