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Taiwan puts diplomatic support behind South China Sea research

2011/08/04 17:24:08

Taipei, Aug. 4 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will fully back all academic activities in the South China Sea, it said Thursday, shortly after a group of students departed for an eco tour there.

Twenty-three students from local universities set off Aug. 3 on a four-day excursion to the Donsha Islands, which is also claimed by China.

The stated purpose of the trip is to learn about the area's ecosystem and Taiwan's enforcement of marine law in the surrounding waters.

According to Ger Baushuan from MOFA's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the research excursion should reinforce Taiwan's claim to the islands.

Last month, a group of 14 teachers and students landed on Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island, the biggest island in the Spratly Islands, marking the first time in over 40 years that scholarly work was conducted by Taiwan there.

The Spratlys and various other archipelagoes in the South China Sea are claimed either in whole or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

The stakes are high as reports indicate a rich deposit of crude oil and other natural resources in that region.

Asked whether any complaint was filed by neighboring countries regarding Taiwan's activities there, Ger said none was received.

Ger reiterated Taiwan's sovereignty over these islands and said that MOFA supports these research trips.

"MOFA will offer full support to any governmental agencies that wish to conduct camps there," Ger said.

The two most recent trips were co-organized by Ministry of Education, Ministry of National Defense and MOFA. The multi-purpose approach could serve as a model for future landings on tiny South China Sea atolls claimed by Taiwan.

Though Taiwan was excluded from a recent ASEAN forum, where the South China Sea issue was discussed, Ger said government representatives and scholars will continue to participate in non-official, bilateral talks with ASEAN countries to press for Taiwan's claims. (Nancy Liu)

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