TAIPEI: The South China Sea islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are an inherent part of Taiwan’s territory from the perspectives of geography, history and international law, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Exercising full rights over the Chungsha (Macclesfield Bank), Nansha (Spratly), Shisha (Paracel) and Tungsha (Pratas) islands, the government does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over or occupation of these areas by other countries or territories, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation, MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao said on Tuesday.
“Any arrangement or agreement regarding Taiping Island [Itu Aba] or other islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters that is reached without Taiwan involvement or consent shall have no legal effect on the nation, and shall not be acknowledged by the government,” she said.
First discovered, named and incorporated into national territory during dynastic Chinese rule, the South China Sea islands were illegally occupied by the Japanese in 1938. The Chinese recovered its territories in the region after victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), according to Kao.
Citing the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which entered into effect April 28, 1952, as well as the Treaty of Peace between the Chinese and Japan signed the same day, Kao said various international legal instruments confirmed that the islands and reefs in the South China Sea occupied by Japan should be returned to Taiwan.
“In the several decades since, the fact that Taiwan exercises effective control over these islands has been recognized by foreign governments and international organizations,” she added.
Taiwan maintains a permanent presence on Taiping, the largest naturally formed island in the Nansha chain. It has been garrisoned by the nation’s military since 1956, with a defense zone established in 1990. For the past six decades, Taiwan military and other government personnel have been based on Taiping, qualifying it beyond dispute as an island under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Kao said the government will firmly defend this fact, and any claims to the contrary will not impair the legal status of Taiping and its maritime rights based on UNCLOS.
“We urge all countries and territories bordering the South China Sea to respect the spirit and principles of the UN Charter and UNCLOS, while exercising restraint and refraining from taking any unilateral action that might escalate tensions,” Kao said.
“The government is committed to safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity and promoting joint development in the South China Sea,” she added.