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DEFENSE/Larger Coast Guard vessels headed to Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island soon

11/06/2023 03:20 PM
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A Coast Guard Administration vessel takes part in a drill in May 2018. CNA file photo
A Coast Guard Administration vessel takes part in a drill in May 2018. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) will soon deploy larger patrol vessels to Taiping Island in the disputed South China Sea, the nation's top intelligence chief told lawmakers on Monday.

National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) made the remarks when asked to confirm a local media report indicating both U.S. and Chinese vessels being spotted earlier this month near the Taiwan-controlled island.

Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, 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 city's Cijin District.

According to a U.S. 7th Fleet press statement, the USS Dewey (DDG-105), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, completed a freedom of navigation operation near the Spratly Islands on Friday.

"This freedom of navigation operation upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People's Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, and Vietnam," reads the 7th Fleet statement.

Meanwhile, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported that unidentified Chinese warship sailed near Taiping Island on Friday.

Tsai did not give a direct answer when asked by opposition lawmakers at Monday's legislative session to comment on the report and if any U.S. or Chinese vessels had entered Taiwan's territorial waters around Taiping on Friday.

Tsai said only that the CGA had a full grasp of the movements of all foreign vessels detected near Taiping, declining to provide more details for confidentiality reasons.

If a foreign vessel sails within 12 nautical miles of Taiping, CGA will report the incident to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the latter will be taking appropriate measures, the NSB head said, without elaborating.

Tsai did not explain what measure MOFA will be taking in response to such intrusion but it is believed the ministry will lodge an official protest to governments of foreign vessels found entering the nation's territorial water.

Meanwhile, in response to the rising tension in the South China Sea surrounding Taiping, Tsai said NSB has contingencies ready in response to all scenarios while the CGA also regularly sends vessels of 3,000 tonnes for routine patrols around Taiping.

CGA will gradually deploy "larger vessels" at Taiping with the aim of stabilizing regional tensions, he added, also without elaborating.

Taiping is now occupied by around 200 Taiwanese Coast Guard personnel trained by the Marine Corps and drills are held regularly.

The island is also claimed by Vietnam, China and the Philippines.

It is one of the two territories controlled by the government of Taiwan in the South China Sea, the other being Dongsha, or Pratas Island, which lies 450 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)


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