Taipei, May 7 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense is training coast guards stationed in the disputed South China Sea region to improve their combat readiness, an official reiterated Monday in response to a report about plans to redeploy troops in the area.
The ministry is currently following its policy of training the Coast Guard Administration personnel stationed on Pratas Island and Taiping Island, ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said.
He added the measures are aimed at making their combat and defense capabilities as strong as marine corps, Luo added.
At present, coast guards, instead of military troops, are responsible for defending Taiping and Pratas islands.
Luo's remarks came in response to a Chinese-language Liberty Times report that the military has had a backup plan to redeploy the marine corps on the islands, an action that would require approval from the National Security Council.
The report came at a time of growing tensions in the South China Sea.
Recent tensions in the region include an ongoing standoff between China and the Philippines that erupted April 10 over the Scarborough Shoal off the coast of the Philippines.
Local media also reported that armed Vietnamese patrol ships twice entered restricted waters near Taiping Island in late March.
Pratas Island located 450 kilometers off Taiwan's southwestern coastline.
Taiping Island is the largest of the Spratly Islands, which lie around 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.
The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Taiwan had deployed marines on Taiping until 2000 and on Pratas until 1999.
(By Elaine Hou)