TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As tension seems to be heightening throughout the South China Sea, between China, the U.S. and nations like the Philippines and Vietnam, a Taiwanese think tank has proposed what might be seen as a radical measure; leasing Taiping island to the U.S. military.
Taiping Island (太平島), the largest natural feature of the Spratly Island chain, is the site of Taiwan’s southernmost military outpost.
As a vulnerable target in the midst of an increasingly contentious region, a DPP related think-tank has proposed inviting the United States military as a guest to the outlying island.
The rationale behind the idea, which was reported in Next Magazine, is that since China has been constructing its own artificial islands in the region, the United States might consider it a tactical benefit to have its own stationary base in the region to operate from.
A secondary benefit of having a U.S. military contingent stationed on Taiping Island, is that chances of an attack from China on the island would be lessened considerably, further securing what is strategically Taiwan’s most at-risk territory, and the least secure from Chinese attack.
The idea has reportedly been floated by some of Taiwan’s top military officials, and has received a positive reaction, and a modest amount of interest, reports SETN.
The proposal also includes suggestions for anti-ship and anti-aircraft weapons platforms in addition to radar and communications equipment, which could be of considerable benefit to U.S. as well as Taiwanese forces in the future.
However, there are detractors, mostly pointing out that such a move could push Taiwan to the brink of war. In terms of the current status of Taiwan-U.S. relations, U.S. troops visiting or occupying Taiping Island, would likely be viewed by Beijing in the same manner as a U.S. naval vessel docking at a Taiwanese harbor like Kaohsiung, or Keelung.
Given the clear sensitivity Beijing has shown towards its territorial claims in the South China Sea, a Taiwanese invitation for the U.S. military to make an extended stay on Taiping Island, while appealing, would probably do very little to resolve the ongoing territorial disputes in the region.
Location of the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) and Taiping Island (Wikimedia Commons Image)