Sat, Aug 26, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Foreign ministry defends Itu Aba live-fire exercises

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan has the full right to conduct live-fire exercises on and around Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, rebutting a Vietnamese government protest against new exercises.

In a statement, the ministry said the nation unquestionably possesses all international and sea law rights to the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) and surrounding sea, adding that Itu Aba, which is the largest of the Spratly Islands, is “national territory” on which Taiwan possesses the right to conduct routine drills.

The national government holds to the principle of setting aside controversy to pursue joint development of the area and is willing to participate in negotiations on a foundation of equality, the statement said, adding that the nation was also willing to maintain and promote peace and stability in the South China Sea in cooperation with other nations.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in December last year promised to “steadfastly protect” the nation’s territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The official Vietnam News Agency on Thursday quoted Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang as saying that the live-fire exercises have “seriously violated Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty over this archipelago, threatened peace, stability, safety, and security of navigation, caused tensions and complicated the situation in the East Sea,” adding that the Vietnamese government “resolutely objects and requests Taiwan not to repeat similar actions.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) refused to address whether and when live-fire exercises had been held, instead referring questions to the Coast Guard Administration, which administers the island.

A search of the administration’s “shooting notification” registry shows a live-fire exercise advisory from Wednesday to yesterday.

Administration officials said it was a routine exercise conducted every three months.

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