TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Legislators will visit an island claimed by Taiwan in the South China Sea to "inspect and declare sovereignty" over the island in December, Kuomintang (KMT) legislator You Yu-lan (游毓蘭) said on Sunday (Nov. 12).
Legislators were initially scheduled to visit Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, in November, but the trip was postponed, per CNA. You said arrangements needed to be made with the Philippines to ensure access to backup airport options for the trip, as is standard practice.
You said that a Lockheed C-130 Hercules of the Taiwan Air Force will transport the legislators there, which nessecitated the discussions around alternate airports. She said the last time legislators visited the island was in 2016.
The news follows national security director Tsai Ming-yen’s (蔡明彥) Nov. 6 comments that Taiwan will send larger frigates to the island in a bid to “stabilize the regional situation.”
Like many features of the Spratly Island group, the sovereignty of Taiping Island is disputed. The island is claimed by Taiwan, China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, however it is administered by Taiwan, which maintains a small military garrison on the island.
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 that classified the territory as a rock, meaning it is not entitled to an exclusive economic zone that is granted to islands.
A C-130 belonging to Taiwan's air force is pictured mid-flight. (Taiwan Cultural Memory Bank, Li Chih-hsuan photo)
In 2016, Taiwan upgraded wharf facilities on the territory, to reportedly accommodate frigates. However, following national security director Tsai’s comments, a Coast Guard spokesperson told Taiwan News that its frigates were unable to dock at the island because the port there could not accommodate them.
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.