Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau (CWB) has added to its official website color-coded maps showing weather conditions for the Pratas Islands and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to underline the country's claim over the disputed island groups.
The move comes amid escalating tension in the region over conflicting sovereignty claims. Taiwan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines have all taken new steps to assert their claims.
CWB Director-General Hsin Tsai-chin said Monday that weather conditions are an important part of national data.
"Adding updated weather observation data for the islands to our website is part of our strategy to assert Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the region," Hsin explained.
Taiwan controls the Pratas, the largest island group in the South China Sea, and Taiping Island, the largest islet in the Spratlys.
The following are excerpts from the local media coverage of Taiwan's new action to defend its sovereignty claim:
China Times: The weather bureau customarily updates weather observation data for Taiwan proper and its outlying islands of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu every 15 to 30 minutes, but data for the Pratas and Taiping can only be updated once every three hours.
CWB officials said the bureau has not yet set up its own observation station in either location.
At the moment, the officials said, Navy and Coast Guard Administration units stationed on the remote islands are responsible for weather observation, and the update interval for data transmission through maritime satellite or the Navy's Hydrographic & Oceanographic Bureau takes three hours, the officials said.
Given their locations, they noted, both the Pratas and the Spratlys are ideal venues for observing the formation of typhoons and atmospheric circulation in the South China Sea that could threaten Taiwan.
The weather bureau is seeking the support of the naval and coast guard authorities to install a wind profiler on the Pratas Islands and a coastal network of buoys on Taiping Island to gather meteorological data, the officials said, adding that installation of these new facilities will help enhance the accuracy of typhoon and atmospheric circulation forecasting.
As part of the government's efforts to reinforce its sovereignty claim to the South China Sea and its island groups, the Ministry of National Defense sent a Chengkung-class frigate carrying a group of graduate and doctoral students and professors to Taiping Island for a study tour last week. (July 17, 2012).
National security sources said the government is studying the feasibility of expanding an existing runway on Taiping Island to improve flight services on the islet, which lies about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in 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 Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
After a nearly two-month-long standoff between armed Chinese and Philippine ships in waters near Scarborough Shoal -- the second largest islet of the Spratlys -- that ended in late June only due to rough weather, the Philippine government reportedly has decided to tighten the screening of applications by its fishery workers to work aboard Taiwanese fishing vessels.
According to Philippine manpower agents, Taiwan needs to import 8,000 fishery workers each fishing season. As China's fishing industry also faces a serious manpower shortage, Taiwan hopes to import more fishery workers from the Philippines.
Philippine officials said they must exercise caution in dealing with manpower exports to Taiwan because Taiwanese fishing boats could poach in South China Sea waters claimed by the Philippines, with the Filipino workers acting as guides.
About 30 Chinese fishing vessels arrived July 15 to fish around the Spratlys, escorted by armed Chinese ships.
A Philippine labor official said he does not want to see the South China Sea territorial disputes complicated further by allowing citizens of the Philippines to work aboard Taiwanese fishing boats. (July 17, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)