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U.S. Congress members support Taiwan's initiatives in South China Sea

U.S. Congress members support Taiwan's initiatives in South China Sea

Six members in the U.S. House of Representatives recently expressed support for Taiwan's initiatives in the South China Sea, including its peace proposal and efforts to make Taiping Island a hub for humanitarian assistance and scientific research.

In a Dec. 15 statement, Rep. Donald Payne, a member in the Hous Committee on Homeland Security, praised Taiwan's willingness to work with other parties concerned to jointly ensure peace and stability in the region, uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight, and conserve and develop resources in the region.

He also took note of Taiping Island, the largest natural and self-sustainable islet in the Spratly Islands group in the region, saying that it qualifies as an island according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"Taiwan has set up a hospital in Taiping Island," he said. "Over the past decade, this hospital has offered humanitarian assistance to 21people in 20 cases, including 12 Philippine and Myanmar nationals, which fully demonstrates Taiwan's dedication to humanitarianism."

Payne's views were backed by other members of Congress.

In his statement, Scott DesJarlais noted the South China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou in May, which reiterates Taiwan's position of shelving disputes and promoting joint resource development in the contested waters, and Taiwan's inauguration of a newly constructed lighthouse and renovated wharf on Taiping this month.

"This infrastructure project will help support free and safe passage of ships through the surrounding waters, further enabling Taiwan to offer humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and provide emergency rescue support to passing vessels," said DesJarlais, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Mike Bishop, who serves on the House Committee on the Judiciary, also shared similar views and lauded Taiwan's efforts to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea.

In addition to praising Taiwan's initiatives in the South China Sea, Matt Salmon, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, also noted the agreement between Taiwan and the Philippines on law enforcement in fishery matters.

In a statement dated Dec. 17, he said that "this fishing agreement should serve as an example for other countries in the region in how to resolve conflicts peacefully and in a way that benefits all parties involved."

The negotiation of the agreement was one of the steps taken to restore relations between Taiwan and the Philippines after an incident in May 2013, in which the Philippine Coast Guard shot up a Taiwanese fishing boat operating in the two countries' overlapping economic waters, leading to the death of a Taiwanese fisherman.

Meanwhile, Madeleine Bordallo, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Readiness, said in a statement that she appreciated that President Ma has worked to develop Taiping Island into a location for joint scientific research which can be conducted by Taiwan and other partners.

"The recent upgrades to facilities on Taiping Island will help to further facilitate the island as a location where the U.S. and Taiwan can better coordinate scientific research on climate change and other ocean issues in the South China Sea," she said.

In response, Taiwan's representative office in the U.S. said the remarks represented the support of the U.S. Congress for Taiwan to play the role of a peacemaker in the South China Sea.

The islands in the resource-rich South China Sea and their surrounding waters are fully or partially claimed by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Taiping Island has been administrated by Taiwan since 1946. (By Rita Cheng and Elaine Hou)

Updated : 2021-09-17 02:30 GMT+08:00