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Taiwanese students, teachers return from disputed Spratly Islands

Taiwanese students, teachers return from disputed Spratly Islands

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) A group of Taiwanese students and teachers returned to Taiwan on Tuesday after a visit to Taiping Island in the Spratly Islands that was aimed at asserting Taiwan's territorial claim to the disputed South China Sea area. Accompanied by two teachers, a total of 18 graduate students from Ming Chuan and Nanhua universities traveled on a Lafayette-class frigate to take part in a camp on Taiping, also known as Itu Aba, said the Ministry of National Defense, which organized the trip as part of its national defense education efforts. During the May 18-26 visit, the group held a flag-raising ceremony on Taiping, cleaned up the beaches, and paid respects to the coast guard and military personnel posted there, the ministry said. Since this year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Republic of China's victory over Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese war, the ministry said, the participants in the camp also were given a lecture on the eight-year war to teach them more about that period in history. During the trip, they students and teachers also had the opportunity to observe the routines of navy personnel aboard a military vessel, the ministry said. The students' visit was the first of three such camps that are being held on Taiping this year for selected groups of students and teachers, with the military providing transportation on its frigates. The defense ministry began organizing the South China Sea camps in 2011, as part of an effort to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the islands. With an area of 0.49 square kilometers, the Taiwan-controlled Taiping is the largest natural land mass in the Spratlys, which lie about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. The group's return to Taiwan coincided with the announcement of a new South China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (???), which calls on the parties concerned to put aside their differences and promote the joint development of resources, amid simmering tensions in the region. Tensions in the region have risen in recent months as China has been unilaterally reclaiming land in the South China Sea to establish military facilities. (By Elaine Hou)


Updated : 2021-09-22 17:35 GMT+08:00