Talk of the Day -- Blueprint drawn for new pier in Spratlys

Taiwan is speeding up its efforts to expand its presence in the South China Sea amid escalating territorial disputes in the region. The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) have completed a location survey for building a new wharf on the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island in the South China Sea, according to a local newspaper. A blueprint has also been drawn for construction of the new pier there, the paper said. The pier will be able to accommodate 3,000-ton warships and rescue vessels, according to the report. The South China Sea has been a flash point between six countries -- Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- which hold partial or whole claims to the sprawling maritime area and its island chains and shoals. Taiping Island has been under Taiwan's control for nearly six decades, but neighboring countries continue to challenge Taiwan there because it is the largest islet in the Spratlys and has fresh water. In March 2012, a Vietnamese fleet sailed close to Taiping Island, firing a warning shot at a Taiwanese patrol ship in the region. Taiwan has since fortified its arsenal on the island, which covers an area of 0.49 square kilometers. The following are excerpts from a special report in the Thursday edition of the United Evening News on Taiwan's progress in building a new wharf there: The Executive Yuan has approved the CGA's new pier construction project on Taiping Island, which lies about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. With a budget of NT$3.37 billion (US$114.41 million), the project is expected to be completed within two years. The CGA and the MND have agreed on the location for the wharf and the construction method after a comprehensive study on the region's hydrology, wind direction and geology. The two agencies will keep coral reefs and a green turtle sanctuary intact to conserve the ecological systems and natural resources. They plan to first build a 3,600-ton caisson in Taiwan, which will be towed to the Taiping Island by naval vessels to serve as a sub-foundation. The L-shaped pier will stretch 320 meters out into the sea, making it capable of hosting 3,000-ton naval vessels and rescue ships. The National Expressway Engineering Bureau will hold an open tender early next year to pick a contractor to carry out the construction project. The MND originally hoped that the existing 1,200-meter runway on Taiping Island can be simultaneously extended at the same time as wharf construction, but the proposal was veteod due to the large amount of money it would require, sources familar with the matter said. (Sept. 19, 2013). (By Sofia Wu)