Sovereignty over the Spratly Islands
By Joe Hung, Special to The China Post
June 22, 2009, 11:11 am TWN
French marines occupied the largest of the Spratlys, Itu Aba now named Taiping, and eight other islets in 1933. The government of the Republic of China in Nanjing lodged protests with the French government. The island group was also occupied by the Japanese in 1939 and placed under the jurisdiction of Takao-shu as part of the Shinnan-gunto. Along with Hsisha (Paracel Islands), it was reoccupied by the navy of the Republic of China in 1946. National monuments were set up to reassert sovereignty. Both archipelagoes were placed under the jurisdiction of the province of Guangdong. Itu Aba was renamed Taiping, after the christened name of the destroyer, the flagship of a flotilla sent to reoccupy the Spratlys. Woody Island, the largest of the Paracels, was renamed Yunghsing (Eternal Prosperity) after the LST (landing ship tank) that landed the marines for reoccupation.
In August 1955 a French warship landed officers and men on Woody Island to claim sovereignty for France and expelled Chinese fishermen back to Hainan Island. The Chinese national monument was destroyed. South Vietnam, which declared independence and claimed sovereignty transferred from France, invaded and occupied two other islands of the Paracels in March and August 1956.
On March 1, 1956, Thomas Cloma, a Filipino mercantile marine school superintendent, landed with his cadets on Taiping and claimed they discovered altogether nine islands for the Philippines. He proclaimed the occupation of his newly found islets on May 15. Two weeks later, on May 29, the People's Republic reiterated its sovereignty over all four island groups in the South China Sea. As a countermeasure, Taiwan sent three flotillas to the Spratlys.
The first flotilla patrolled between June 2 and 14, 1956. Marines were landed on Taiping and two other islets. The second flotilla completed the cruise from June 29 to July 22. The last flotilla, which made the patrol between September 24 and October 5, stopped a Filipino ship commanded by Filemon Cloma, aboard which were found weapons. The Filipino skipper, a younger brother of Thomas Cloma, was brought to the flagship of the flotilla for questioning. He said he was on a “private visit” to Taiping his brother claimed for the Philippines. Subsequently, in December, Manila announced Cloma's voyage had nothing to do with the government of the Philippines. In view of the possibilities that the Filipinos might return after Taiwan's naval force left, Taipei decided to station a marine platoon on Taiping at the end of 1956. The stationing of a defense force has since continued. (To be continued.)