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Taiwan considers extending runway in Spratlys: source

TAIPEI -- Taiwan is considering extending the runway on the contested Spratly island in a move that could provoke fresh tensions in the heavily disputed South China Sea, media reported on Sunday.

If approved, the project would extend by 500 meters (1,640 feet) the runway on Taiping Island, the largest in the disputed waters and some 860 miles (1,376 kilometers) from Taiwan, the Liberty Times said.

“The national security authorities lately convened a meeting to evaluate the proposal as the situation in the South China Sea has been getting ever complicated,” it cited an unnamed national security source as saying.

Tensions in the South China Sea have risen recently, with China and the Philippines locked in a maritime dispute over the Scarborough Shoal, a reef off the Philippine coast.

The runway, currently 1,150 meters (3,773 feet), was built in 2006 despite protests from other countries with claims in the potentially oil-rich area, including Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Calls for an increase of Taiwan's defense capability on the disputed area have been on the rise as the claimants have deployed more troops and added military facilities there.

In May, Taiwan formed a special airborne unit capable of scrambling to the South China Sea in just hours, after a visit by three legislators and several top military officers in a trip intended to renew their territorial claim amid mounting tensions in the area.

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