Taiwan to uphold sovereignty over islands in South China Sea: Tsai

12/09/2016 03:34 PM

Taipei, Dec. 9 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Friday Taiwan will firmly uphold its sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and its rights in the region based on international and maritime laws.

Taiwan will also continue to uphold the freedom of navigation and flights in the South China Sea based on peaceful, humanitarian, ecological and sustainable development values, the president said.

She made the remarks when she addressed the opening ceremony of an exhibition titled "Sustainable Governance and Enduring Peace: An Exhibition Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Recovery of the South China Sea Islands," at Academia Historica, which is co-organizing the event with the Ministry of the Interior.

The president noted that several countries have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, and the issues involved include regional security, diplomatic relations and their political and economic interests.

"The government will continue to cooperate and negotiate with these countries," Tsai said.

She vowed to firmly safeguard Taiwan's sovereignty in the South China Sea based on international law and maritime law and uphold its legal rights.

She said Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba and the largest island in the Spratly Islands, has been "a major site for Taiwan to make substantive contributions to regional peace and stability."

She said her administration proposed to handle the South China Sea issue based on four principles in July.

First, territorial disputes should be dealt with according to international law and maritime law, and second, Taiwan should be included in the multilateral dispute settlement mechanism.

Third, claimants of the South China Sea have an obligation to maintain freedom of navigation and flight in the region, and fourth, Taiwan advocates putting aside disputes to make way for joint development of resources in the region.

Based on these four principles, the government has achieved some results, starting with stepping up patrols around the Pratas and Spratly Islands and cracking down on foreign fishing boats illegally operating in the waters.

Taiwan has also expressed to the international community its support for shelving disputes and jointly developing South China Sea resources through a multilateral dialogue mechanism.

She also spoke of a humanitarian drill held in waters around Taiping Island on Nov. 29, demonstrating that Taiwan is capable of turning it into a humanitarian rescue center and logistics base.

Taiwan has also pushed for cooperation with peripheral countries on seismological, tsunami, climate change and ocean development projects on Taiping Island.

The president also held a video conference with the commander of Taiping Island to learn about the lives of the people stationed there.

Tsai expressed her appreciation for their contributions, calling them "the pride of Taiwan."

Col. Wang Mao-lin (王茂霖) reported to the president that personnel there -- mostly Coast Guard officers -- undergo training in the daytime and can take a vacation back to Taiwan proper every three months.

Wang reported that 20 sheep are raised on the island, usually in a field, but return to their pens at noon upon hearing military songs, drawing laughter from Tsai and others.

There are also about 30 or 40 kinds of vegetables and fruits and 220 chickens raised on the island, according to Wang.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- claim part or some of the islands in the South China Sea.

(By Claudia Liu and Lilian Wu)

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