Itu Aba Island wharf to bolster nation’s defense

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - Page 4

A wharf planned to be built on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), in the South China Sea will help to greatly enhance Taiwan’s defensive capability in that area, when the project is completed in 2016, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said on Thursday.

Lin, a member of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said construction of the NT$3.37 billion (US$112.5 million) project will begin next year and an initial allocation of NT$1 billion has been made in the government’s fiscal 2014 budget for it.

He estimated that the wharf will be finished by 2016, two to three years ahead of schedule.

Currently, a broken trestle on Itu Aba Island is being used to dock coast guard cutters with a displacement of 6 tonnes or less, according to a press release issued by Lin’s office.

When the new wharf is completed, navy ships will be able to dock and unload heavy equipment and bulk goods, the lawmaker said.

Some large and medium-sized coast guard patrol boats and even some navy combat ships can be based there, he added.

The project means that Taiwan will eventually be able to deploy patrol boats and warships for considerable periods of time in the areas near Itu Aba Island, Lin said.

He said the new wharf will also help facilitate work on a project to extend the island’s 1,150m runway, which currently can only accommodate partially loaded C-130H transport aircraft in “extremely good” weather conditions.

The National Expressway Engineering Bureau has been commissioned by the Coast Guard Administration to build the wharf, Lin said.

Itu Aba Island, administered by Taiwan, is the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the much-contested South China Sea. It is also the only island in the archipelago with fresh water.

China, Vietnam and the Philippines also make partial or total claim to the South China Sea area.

The island, which lies about 1,600km from Kaohsiung, is elliptical in shape, 1.4km long and 0.4km wide.