Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) on Wednesday called on all nations in the region to recognize freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, amid Beijing's maritime expansion and militarization efforts in the contested waters.
Many nations in the region, including South China Sea claimants, are concerned about Beijing's overreaching claims to the area and its militarization of man-made islands, although many of those countries have close economic ties with Beijing, Wu said in an exclusive interview with CNA.
Although countries around the South China Sea may be quiet on China's actions, they are concerned and would like to see democratic nations exercise their freedom of navigation and overflight, Wu said.
"We urge all nations to recognize freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea," he said, "If they do not, China will take control of the entire South China Sea, thus posing a threat to the sovereignty and safety of nearby countries and to international trade."
Beijing has been criticizing the movements of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and many other U.S.-aligned countries in the South China Sea, particularly when their military vessels or aircraft pass near the artificial islands that China controls.
Recently, China warned the U.K. that the passage of its naval vessel HMS Queen Elizabeth through the South China Sea would be viewed as a "hostile" act, according to British media.
Meanwhile, Wu said that although Taiwan cannot join the negotiations on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea and multilateral meetings such as the ASEAN regional forum, it is closely monitoring the developments in that regard.
He called on the international community and the South China Sea claimants to hold discussions with Taiwan on South China Sea issues, saying that Taiwan is willing to make contributions in that regard, particularly in the fields of scientific research and search and rescue.
He also urged the relevant countries to settle South China Sea disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Taiwan, along with China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, claim all or some of the South China Sea islands and their waters.