Taiwan stands firm on Taiping drills despite Manila protests
Taipei, June 29 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Wednesday asserted Taiwan's right to conduct live-fire drills on Taiping Island, following protests from the Philippines, which claims the South China Sea territory as its own.
As Taiping Island is part of the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, the country has the "right to conduct routine exercises at Taiping and its surrounding waters," MOFA said in a press statement.
The ministry added that the government had issued notices beforehand to warn nearby vessels of the drills.
Disputes in the region should be settled peacefully by all parties concerned, and in accordance with international law, MOFA said, citing Taiwan government's basic principle pertaining to issues in the South China Sea.
MOFA's statement was issued one day after the Philippine government expressed its "strong objection" to what it described as Taiwan's "unlawful live-fire drills" off the coast of Taiping Island, known in the Philippines as Ligaw Island.
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs called the drills on Tuesday and Wednesday an "illegal activity" that "raises tensions and complicates the situation in the South China Sea."
They added that Taiping Island was an "integral part of the Kalayaan Island Group," over which the Philippines had sovereignty.
Both Taipei and Manila did not divulge what kind of weapons were used during the two days of live-fire drills.
Taiping Island, the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, lies 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung and is administered as part of the southern Taiwan municipality's Cijin District.
Taiping Island is also claimed by the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
It is one of the two territories controlled by Taiwan in the South China Sea, the other being Dongsha, or Pratas Island, which lies 450 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung.
Currently, Dongsha and Taiping Island are manned by Taiwanese Coast Guard personnel trained by the nation's Marine Corps, and quarterly drills have regularly been held in both locations.
Taiwan's military said in 2020 that it would temporarily post marines on Pratas Island amid reports that the Chinese military was planning to conduct drills in the area.
The military did not reveal the number of marines deployed when they arrived on the island, or how long they would be garrisoned there.
The Spratly Islands, a group of islands and other natural structures in the South China Sea, are claimed in part or entirely by Taiwan, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
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