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President Ma does not rule out visit to Taiping Island

President Ma does not rule out visit to Taiping Island

Taipei, June 24 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday that he does not rule out the possibility of visiting Taiping Island, the biggest Taiwan-controlled island in the contested South China Sea, but added that he has no immediate plans to do so.
Taiping in the Spratly Islands is part of the territory of the Republic of China, so there is a legitimate possibility that he could visit, Ma said in response to reporters' questions during a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
"I currently have no plans to visit (Taiping), but I will not rule out the possibility," Ma said, during a question-and-answer session with the media and foreign affairs officials.
With an area of 0.49 square kilometers, Taiping, also known as Itu Aba, is the largest natural land mass in the Spratlys, which lie about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Taiwan, in the South China Sea.
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.
Amid simmering tensions in the region, Ma proposed a South China Sea Peace Initiative in May, calling on the parties concerned to put aside their differences and jointly develop the resources in the area.
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.
"We will propose a roadmap" for the South China Sea Peace Initiative in the near future, Ma said in response to a question on how his administration planned to promote his initiative among the claimants.
His South China Sea Peace Initiative is similar to another proposal he made in August 2012 to address territorial disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.
Ma said the situation in the South China Sea is more complicated, however, as there are more claimants to that region.
Seeking to jointly explore the South China Sea resources would be a more effective way of dealing with the issue than focusing on territorial sovereignty issues, he said.
"It is important that the ROC proposes these ideals," he said, adding that it helps to ensure that the country has a voice on the issue.
A peaceful resolution of the territorial issues would be more beneficial to all parties concerned, Ma said.
Based on the spirit of the East China Sea peace initiative, Ma said, he has put forward the peace proposal for the South China Sea to ease the tensions in the region.
It is part of Taiwan's efforts to play the role of a peacemaker in the region and a responsible stakeholder in the international community, he said, noting that the East China Sea Peace Initiative allowed Taiwan and Japan to sign a historic fishery agreement to address fishing disputes in waters surrounding the Diaoyutais. (By Elaine Hou)


Updated : 2021-02-27 00:42 GMT+08:00