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Vietnam's criticism of live fire drills in Spratly Is. 'totally unacceptable': Taiwan

Coast Guard says drills are regularly carried out and not suddenly announced

An aerial view of Taiwan's Taiping island, also known as Itu Aba, in the Spratly archipelago. (Taiwan's Ministry of Defense via AP)

An aerial view of Taiwan's Taiping island, also known as Itu Aba, in the Spratly archipelago. (Taiwan's Ministry of Defense via AP)

UPDATE: 08/30/23 09:30: Added comment from Taiwan's foreign ministry.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Vietnam has again demanded Taiwan cease live fire drills conducted around Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, though Taiwan's Coast Guard said the drills are routine and Taiwan's foreign ministry called Vietnam's statement 'totally unacceptable'.

VN Express reported on Monday (Aug. 28) that Vietnam’s foreign ministry released a statement and said Taiwan’s drills are a “serious violation of Vietnam's territorial sovereignty … threatening peace, stability, maritime safety and security, as well as increasing tension and complicating the situation in the East Sea.” The statement is almost identical to Vietnam’s protest against Taiwan's drill carried out in the area in June.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration told Taiwan News on Tuesday that the drills are routine, and are carried out multiple times a year. “The artillery fire drills in the Spratly Islands are carried out regularly, and the announcement was not made suddenly,” a Coast Guard spokesperson said.

On Wednesday Taiwan’s foreign ministry released a statement similar to previous rebukes of Vietnam's criticism of the drills, calling Vietnam's accusation "totally unacceptable," per CNA. The statement mirrors previous responses to Vietnam’s claims that Taiwan’s drills in the area violate its territorial sovereignty.

"Taiping Island is indisputably the territory of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has the authority to exercise all the rights of a sovereign state over Taiping Island and its relevant waters," the statement said.

"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," the foreign ministry said in a seperate response to criticism from the Vietnamese government in June.

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 (蔡英文) 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.

An airstrip controlled by Taiwan's military runs the length of Taiping Island, and it is also equipped with a dock that can reportedly accommodate warships. The island is technically the jurisdiction of Kaohsiung City, and is located approximately 1,500 km from it.

The island is about 400 km from the Philippines and 600 km from Vietnam.

Taiping Island is shown relative to Kaohsiung, which is responsible for its administration.