A three-day live-fire exercise is to be conducted from 8am to 9pm daily on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) starting on Monday, the Coast Guard Administration’s first nighttime live-fire drill under President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), the administration said on Thursday.
Itu Aba, the largest naturally occurring island in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), has been administered by Taiwan since 1956 and is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The administration said that Itu Aba is threatened by nearby land reclamation work being carried out by China and Vietnam, citing Vietnam’s stationing of a company of troops on Sandy Cay (Dunqian Cay, 敦謙沙洲) about 7 nautical miles (13km) east of Itu Aba.
Chinese-held Hughes Reef (Dongmen Reef, 東門礁), Johnson South Reef (Chigua Reef, 赤瓜礁) and Gaven Reef (Nansyun Reef, 南薰礁), all within 70km of Itu Aba, are also threats due to land reclamation and the establishment of military facilities, the administration said.
The administration marked off areas within 5 nautical miles of Itu Aba as dangerous during the exercise.
Since the government’s decision in 1999 to withdraw marines from the island base, its defenses have been manned by the coast guard, with training by the marines.
Live-fire exercises are routinely carried out every season, the administration said, adding that as there is no heavy artillery on the island, its defense relies on 120mm, 81mm and 40mm mortars, as well as 20mm machine guns.
Separately, the Fisheries Agency announced that there would be live-fire exercises around the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) from May 1 to May 2, which are to be carried out from 8am to 9pm, with an expected danger zone of up to 8 nautical miles.
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