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Vietnam demands Taiwan cancel military drills in Spratly Islands

Taiwan rejects call, says Taiping Island is undoubtedly within its territory

Taiping Island is seen via satellite imaging. (Wikimedia Commons)

Taiping Island is seen via satellite imaging. (Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) says it completely rejects Vietnam's assertion that Taiwan’s planned live-fire drills in the Spratly Islands territory are a serious violation of Vietnam's sovereignty.

Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Thursday (June 8) which called on Taiwan to cancel the planned drills. "The fact that Taiwan performs live-fire drills in sea regions around Itu Aba (referred to as Taiping Island in Taiwan), part of Vietnam’s Spratly Islands, is in serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty... threatening peace, stability, maritime safety and security, as well as escalating tensions and complicating the situation in the South China Sea," a spokesperson said, per VN Express.

Taiwan's MOFA released a statement on Sunday (June 11) following a Taiwan News query and said it is "beyond doubt" that the Taiping Islands are a sovereign territory of Taiwan.

"The Government of the Republic of China reaffirms that it enjoys all rights under international law and the law of the sea in regards to the islands of the South China Sea and their related waters," MOFA said, mirroring past statements made on the territory. The Ministry of National Defense told Taiwan News on Saturday (June 10) that the planned exercises are under the jurisdiction of Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration.

Like many in the Spratly Island group, the sovereignty of Taiping Island is disputed and claimed by Taiwan, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said President Tsai Ing-wen outlined a framework for responding to regional territorial disputes in 2016, which includes working with the international community to resolve disputes according to international law. However, in 2016, Taiwan rejected a ruling by an international tribunal (brought by the Philippines against China) that classified the territory as a rock, meaning it is not entitled to an exclusive economic zone that is granted to islands.

Taiping Island is almost entirely covered by an airstrip controlled by Taiwan’s military. In 2016, Taiwan upgraded wharf facilities on the territory, to reportedly accommodate warships, while unconfirmed rumors surfaced in 2022 suggesting that Taiwan planned to upgrade the island's airstrip to accommodate fighter jets.

Taiping Island is officially part of Kaohsiung and is located approximately 1,500 kilometers from the southern Taiwanese city. It is about 400 kilometers from the Philippines and 600 kilometers from Vietnam.

Taiping Island is shown relative to Kaohsiung, the Taiwanese city responsible for the territory's administration.