Minister inspection of Taiping Island no other countries' business

Taipei, Dec. 13 (CNA) Interior Minister Chen Wei-zen's inspection of an island in the Spratlys of South China Sea was an exercise of Taiwan's sovereignty over its territory and was none of the business of any other countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Sunday.

Chen a day earlier presided over the opening of a renovated wharf and a newly constructed lighthouse on Taiping Island, the largest of the disputed Spratly Islands. Taipei has been under Taiwan's control.

The move drew ire from Vietnam, whose foreign ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh stated Sunday that it is Vietnam who, based on legal and historical evidence, owns sovereignty over Xisha and Nansha (Spratlys) islands in South China Sea.

Le said any action on the island without Vietnamese government's consent is "illegal and invalid."

In response, the MOFA said it is beyond doubts that the Republic of China (Taiwan) enjoys all rights as governed by international law over South China Sea, including Nansha, Xisha, Zhongsha and Dongsha archipelagos and surrounding waters.

As the largest naturally formed island in the Nansha archipelago, Taiping has always been part of the ROC, under the jurisdiction of Cijin District of Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan, said the ministry.

Over the many years when the ROC has stationed personnel on the islet, it noted, the country has never had any military conflicts with other countries and has never obstructed sea or air travel around it by the vessels and aircraft of other countries, or interfered in their freedom of flying over. So, Vietnam's accusation that Minister Chen's inspection of the island has damaged regional peace evidently is not factual and runs counter to the universal knowledge of the international community, said MOFA.

It said the ROC's upgrading its infrastructure on the island was aimed at "supply" and "maintenance" that will improve local personnel's quality of life and help accomplish the island's missions as a base for scientific research, emergency rescue and environmental protection.

Inaugurating a new lighthouse on the island helps increase navigation safety for vessels operating nearby.

Taiwan has declared to the international community that it plans to transform Taiping into an island of peace, ecological preservation and low carbon emissions and will help realize President Ma Ying-jeou's "South China Sea Peace Initiative."

The peace initiative is based on the principles of "setting aside sovereignty disputes" and "jointly developing resources." (By Tai Ya-chen, Lilian Wu and S.C. Chang)