The nation’s military outpost on the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) in the South China Sea is being threatened by the latest deployment of mobile missiles and artillery guns on nearby islands held by China and Vietnam, according to a new report submitted to the Control Yuan.
The Ministry of National Defense report pointed to the increased buildup of troops and weapons by China and Vietnam on their island bases near the military outpost on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島).
Of particular concern are the moves by Vietnam to enhance its troop presence with more sophisticated weapons on Sand Cay — known as Dunqian Sand Island (敦謙沙洲) in Chinese and Son Ca Island to the Vietnamese — which lies just 11km east of Itu Aba Island.
The report said that Vietnam has deployed an unspecified amount of new shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to its expanded marine base on Sand Cay in the past year.
“The effective range of the Vietnamese shoulder-fired missiles is about 1.5km. However, Vietnam may plan to deploy these portable missiles to reef islets closer to Taiping Island or might carry them on patrol boats to within striking range. In such a scenario, our military transport aircraft heading to Taiping Island would be directly threatened,” the report said.
It also provided surveillance information showing that Vietnam has begun work to artificially expand Sand Cay Island and to build military installations.
Meanwhile, China has reclaimed major tracts of land and constructed military installations on five reef and shoal locations claimed by China in the Spratlys since last year.
The Chinese construction operations in the Spratlys are on Cuarteron Reef (Huayang, 華陽), Gaven Reef (Nansyun, 南薰) and Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁), which are also claimed by Taiwan, as well as Union Reef North and Union Reef South.
To counter the threats posed by China and Vietnam in the South China Sea, legislators had requested the deployment of a marine force, instead of coast guard units, to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands 東沙群島) and the Spratlys.
Legislators said that the ministry has acted in a contradictory fashion, being outspoken about the increasing number of threats faced by the Itu Aba Island military outpost while continuously dismissing calls to deploy marines and declining requests to have warships permanently stationed on Taiwan’s island outposts.
The report was part of the Control Yuan’s special investigation into the current regional security situation in East Asia.
The report recommended that the government boost its defenses in the South China Sea, given that China, Vietnam and the Philippines have all built up military installations and deployed new weapons on 12 islands and shoals around Itu Aba Island.
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