Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taiwan to strengthen claims to Spratlys

TAIWAN is looking to assert itself on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) by redeploying maritime forces to “better defend” its sovereignty claims to the Spratly group of islands, Taipei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

In Beijing, China’s defense ministry said that it conducted two days of joint maritime patrols with Vietnam earlier this week while Hanoi said that it would conduct joint naval exercises with the United States.

In a report broacast on Taiwan’s premier national news agency, Focus Taiwan News Channel, Foreign Minister Timothy C.T. Yang said that plans were in the works to protect Taipei’s claims to the disputed region.

Taiwan has reaffirmed its claims to the West Philippine Sea and its groups of islands, he added.

“We have also called on all parties concerned to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), shelve their disputes and work together and share the resources in the area,” Yang said.

The Taiwanese official made the statement amid escalating tension between the Philippines, China and Vietnam as they traded barbs in the last few weeks because of overlapping claims to the West Philippine Sea.

The disputed area is composed of the Spratly, Paracel and Pratas islands, as well as the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.

The Spratlys—believed to be rich in oil and mineral reserves—are claimed in whole by China and in part by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

China has made the largest claims to the contested waters, forming a large U-shape over the sea’s 1.7 million kilometers.

Taiwan claims the Pratas (Dongsha) Islands, the largest island group in the West Philippine Sea, and Taiping island, the largest in the Spratlys.

In a statement carried by state media also on Thursday, the Chinese defense ministry said that naval ships from Beijing and Hanoi staged patrols on Sunday and Monday in the Gulf of Tonkin as part of an annual plan of “friendly exchanges” between the two militaries.

A Vietnamese Navy delegation is now paying a four-day visit to the coastal city of Zhanjiang in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong that will end on Friday, it added.

In Hanoi, foreign ministry spokesman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters that the scheduled “joint exercise between the Vietnamese and US navies is an annual event.”
She did not give a date for the training, but said that it would “promote relations between the two navies, carry out humanitarian activities and exchange concerning professional matters, as well as search and rescue operations.”
Manila Times with report from AFP

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