Agency ready to cooperate on Itu Aba Island plans

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - Page 3

The Harbor and Marine Technology Center said it would cooperate on extending the runway on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) if the government decides to upgrade the airport there.

Responding to a media report that the government is planning to extend the runway, Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳), director of the center at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, said they had not been informed of the plan, but would provide technical assistance in cooperation with other agencies if instructed to do so.

“If the transportation ministry agrees with the Ministry of National Defense to help start the project on Taiping Island, we will certainly assist in the related fields, including enlarging the harbor or designing the port,” he said.

Itu Aba, controlled by Taiwan, is the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea. Tensions have risen in that area since the middle of last year because of the overlapping sovereignty claims by other nations, including those of China, on the islands.

The United Evening News reported on Wednesday that the government had decided to upgrade the Itu Aba airport this year to counter a plan by the Philippines to renovate an airport runway on one of the islets that it controls in the Spratlys.

According to the newspaper, the government will first build a harbor on the island and then extend the runway from 1,200m to 1,500m to allow for more military transport flights.

The defense and transportation ministries and the Coast Guard Administration would be involved in the project, the report said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated on Tuesday that the Philippines’ plan to repair the runway on Thitu Island (Jhongye, 中業島) to develop tourism on some adjacent islets was illegal because it would infringe on Taiwan’s interests and rights.

All the islands in the South China Sea — the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), the Spratlys, the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and the Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) — and their surrounding waters are Taiwan’s inherent territory, the foreign ministry said.