Taipei, May 11 (CNA) The government is concerned about the recent passage of a U.S. naval vessel through waters surrounding a disputed islet in the South China Sea, and said Wednesday that it is following the matter closely.
"The government is paying close attention" to the USS William P. Lawrence's passage through the territorial waters of Fiery Cross Reef, part of the Spratly Islands, without having notified Taiwan in advance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The ministry reiterated that whether from the perspectives of history, geography, or international law, the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Shisha (Paracel) Islands, Chungsha Islands (Macclesfield Bank), and Tungsha (Pratas) Islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are inherent parts of Republic of China territory and waters.
"It is indisputable that the ROC enjoys all rights to these island groups and their surrounding waters, in accordance with international law," it said.
The ROC has consistently adhered to the principles of peaceful settlement of international disputes and freedom of navigation and overflight, as stipulated in the United Nations Charter and other relevant international laws and regulations, the ministry said.
Therefore, it hopes that all countries take the principles and spirit of the "South China Sea peace initiative" proposed by Taiwan as reference, preventing provocation and stand-offs, and resolving disputes through peaceful means, the ministry said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau confirmed in a press briefing in Washington, D.C. Tuesday that a U.S. Navy surface ship exercised the right of innocent passage while transiting inside 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross Reef, a high-tide feature that is occupied by China but is also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
"No claimants were notified prior to the transit, which is also consistent with our normal process and international law," she said.
Trudeau stated that the U.S. Department of Defense conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, specifically in the region of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, "to uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under international law and to challenge excessive maritime claims of some claimants in the South China Sea."
A CNN report that same day cited a Pentagon statement as saying that "the USS William P. Lawrence exercised the right of innocent passage while transiting inside 12 nautical miles of Fiery Cross Reef, a high-tide feature that is occupied by China, but also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam."
"This operation challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim ... contrary to international law," the statement added.
The USS William P. Lawrence is a guide missile destroyer.
(By Tang Pei-chun and Elizabeth Hsu)