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Lawmakers visit Taiping Island as South China Sea simmers

2012/04/30 14:03:51

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) A group of lawmakers flew to the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island in the South China Sea Monday for a brief inspection tour.

The group was led by ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who concurrently serves as convener of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign and National Defense Committee.

Lin's office said the trip to the largest of the disputed Spratly islands was not disclosed in advance mainly because the lawmakers wanted to ensure that the visit went smoothly, without outside interference.

As the situation in the disputed South China Sea is simmering over a recent standoff between armed Chinese and Philippine vessels in the region of the Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyen Island in Mandarin Chinese, the lawmakers' visit to Taiping Island nevertheless attracted attention.

Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu said earlier in the day that the lawmakers' visit was nothing unusual. "Their trip was only intended to pay regards to the Republic of China soldiers and coastguard officers stationed there," he said.

The South China Sea is seen as a flashpoint because Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim all or part of the 3.5 million-square-kilometersea and the Spratly, Paracel and Pratas islands and the MacclesfieldBank and the Scarborough Shoal that are part of the area.

Taiwan controls the Pratas Islands, the largest island in theentire South China Sea, and Taiping Island, the largest island in theSpratlys.

(By Chen Pei-huang and Sofia Wu)