TAIPEI: Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong led a team of officials and researchers to Taiping Island on Tuesday to reaffirm Taiwan’s sovereignty over the largest naturally formed island in the Spratly Islands.
“As President Tsai Ing-wen said during the July 19 national security council meeting, the ROC [Republic of China or Taiwan] remains steadfast on its position that the South China Sea islands are an inherent part of the nation’s territory,” Yeh said during a news conference at the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) in Taipei City following his one-day trip to Taiping Island.
“The ROC maintains all rights over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS],” he said. “While we will not assert excessive claims, we will also not give up any rights.”
Yeh and the group, which included Coast Guard Administration Minister Lee Chung-wei, Kaohsiung City Deputy Mayor Chen Chin-de and researchers involved in projects overseen by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), took part in a large number of activities during the visit. Some of these were meeting with government personnel, inspecting meteorological facilities, touring fruit and vegetable gardens and attaching a new address plate to Nansha Hospital.
According to Yeh, the trip is also part of preparations to transform Taiping Island into a hub of scientific investigation on climate change and marine ecology. “Given its central location in the South China Sea and rich biodiversity, Taiping Island is ideal for conducting long-term atmospheric and marine environmental research and observation.”
The minister said the Central Weather Bureau will set up an automatic weather observation station and tidal monitoring station next month, adding that the MOI is working with the MOST and other agencies on sharing this data and seeking international collaboration on related projects.
Other measures in the pipeline, Yeh said, are producing a documentary on the lives of government personnel stationed on Taiping Island and staging a seminar and workshop on the government’s South China Sea policymaking. These are part of a series of events planned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Taiping Island’s recovery by Taiwan. The country recovered Taiping Island on December 12, 1946, following World War II, and has stationed government personnel there for over 60 years since June 1956.
Taiping Island, with an area of 0.51 square kilometers, can sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own, and meets the criteria of an island as defined in Article 121 of UNCLOS. Therefore, Taiwan enjoys full rights associated with territorial waters, a contiguous zone, an exclusive economic zone, and a continental shelf in accordance with UNCLOS.