Sun, Jul 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

News that US could rent Itu Aba is ‘fake,’ institute says

TENACIOUS RUMOR:Reports that Taiwan was mulling leasing the island in the South China Sea to foreign powers were published in 2016, last year and this year

Staff writer, with CNA

A report that Taiwan is considering leasing Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) to the US constitutes “fake news” and could mislead the public the Taipei-based Institute for National Defense and Security Research said on Friday.

Spreading groundless information could affect the public’s understanding of the matter, the institute said in a statement, urging the media to verify facts before reporting them.

The institute, which is affiliated with the Ministry of National Defense, was launched in May to study China’s military. Former minister of national defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) is serving as its first chairman.

While serving as defense minister, Feng repeatedly denied such rumors at legislative hearings when questioned by lawmakers, the institute said in a statement.

Rumors that Taiwan is mulling leasing the island in the disputed South China Sea have surfaced several times over the past few years, including in July 2016, July last year and last month, it said.

The most recent report about Taiwan considering to lease the island to the US was published by Chinese news Web site xilu.com.

“Such an idea is very dangerous, because the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are all firmly opposed to any such moves that are harmful to the Chinese people,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wu Qian (吳謙) said at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday

In response to Wu’s comment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) reiterated that Taiwan has no plans to lease the island.

“The government has no plans to lease Taiping Island to any other country, including the US,” Lee said. “Neither the US nor any other country has made such a request.”

It was the second time in a month that Lee commented on the matter, which has attracted attention from local and foreign media.

The report was fabricated and designed to create instability in the region or conflict between the two sides of the Strait, he said, urging the perpetrators to stop attacking Taiwan over a groundless rumor.

Itu Aba, located about 1,600km from Kaohsiung, is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島). It has an area of only 0.51 square kilometers and houses 200 Taiwanese soldiers, but no civilian residents.

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