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Lawmakers visit Taiping Island, urge Lai to reaffirm sovereignty

05/18/2024 09:30 PM
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KMT and TPP members of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee pose together in front of a obelisk on Taiping Island on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the office of Legislator Ma Wen-chun
KMT and TPP members of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee pose together in front of a obelisk on Taiping Island on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the office of Legislator Ma Wen-chun

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) A group of legislators visited Taiping Island on Saturday and called on President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) to assert the country's sovereignty over the disputed island at his inauguration on Monday.

Led by Deputy Legislative Speaker Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) and Foreign and National Defense Committee co-chair Ma Wen-chun (馬文君), both of whom are with the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), the group said the trip was to show its "determination to defend sovereignty."

In a social media post later Saturday, Chiang called on Lai to "publicly reaffirm Taiping Island as the Republic of China's (Taiwan's official name) territory" during his inauguration, which is expected to host nearly 700 foreign dignitaries.

The Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It is situated 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung among the Spratly Islands in the resource-rich and strategically important South China Sea.

Chiang said the legislators in the group advocated the peaceful resolution of disputes [in the South China Sea], but he insisted that "[we] cannot remain silent, passive, or inactive."

KMT and TPP members of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee visit Taiping Island on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the office of Legislator Ma Wen-chun
KMT and TPP members of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee visit Taiping Island on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the office of Legislator Ma Wen-chun

In response to a reporter's question before leaving for Taiping Island on whether such a trip could destabilize regional stability, Ma said it was not unprecedented as many legislators visited the island eight years ago.

She was referring to the trip made by eight legislators, including Chiang and some others from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in July 2016, made shortly after an international arbitral tribunal's classification of the island as a "rock," meaning it could not generate an exclusive economic zone.

"Taiping Island is part of the Republic of China's territory," Ma said, adding that "no individual or country can give any instructions" on whether they can visit the island or not.

During the lawmakers' brief visit to Taiping Island, the delegation received a briefing on the island and had lunch with the personnel stationed there.

The delegation also included KMT legislators Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), Cheng Cheng-chien (鄭正鈐), and Liao Hsien-hsiang (廖先翔), and Taiwan People's Party lawmaker Chen Gau-tzu (陳昭姿).

Half of the 20 legislators who had originally signed up for the trip opted out after a long day at the Legislature on Friday marred by physical altercations as opposition lawmakers tried to push through controversial amendments.

Six legislators were injured during the chaotic day and sent to the hospital.

No lawmakers from the DPP took part in the trip.

(By Wu Shu-wei, Liu Kuan-ting and Teng Pei-ju)

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