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Government determined to become peacemaker in South China Sea: official

TAIPEI--Taiwan is determined to become a peacemaker in the South China Sea, President Ma Ying-jeou's top national security adviser said Friday during a visit to Taiping Island in the region.

“With our 60 years of experience in administering Taiping Island, we can serve as a humanitarian aid provider, anti-global warming practitioner and peacemaker in the region,” declared National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen.

Hu and several other senior officials visited Taiping Island — the largest isle of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea — Friday to reinforce the country's claim to the vast ocean area and the island chains there amid escalating territorial disputes among neighboring countries.

In addition to extending President Ma's concern for Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force officers stationed on Taiping Island, the group of officials also landed on the Chungchou Reef located 3.1 nautical miles east of Taiping Island to hoist a Republic of China national flag, the NSC said in a press statement.

The flag-raising ceremony signified the government's determination to defend its sovereignty over the region, the statement said.

Hu was quoted as having reaffirmed at the occasion that Taiwan's sovereignty is undisputable but that relevant rows can be shelved as long as all claimants work together peacefully to explore resources for mutual benefits.

He also urged all neighboring countries to respond to Ma's East China Sea Peace Initiative by putting aside territorial disputes, replacing confrontation with dialogue, settling spats through communications and jointly prospecting for South China Sea resources to make the ocean a peaceful and prosperous maritime paradise.

As Taiwan has set up a hospital on Taiping Island, it can provide emergency medical treatment to those in need of such service, Hu said, adding that Taiwan can serve as the region's “humanitarian aid provider.”

Moreover, he said, Taiwan has opened a solar power facility on Taiping Island to help cut carbon emissions and fulfill its international duty of working against global warming.

Most important, Hu added, Taiwan is more than willing to share its decades-long experience in managing the Spratlys' largest islet and partner with neighboring countries to protect freedom of navigation and promote maritime ecological conservation in the area.

Other officials who accompanied Hu on the tour of Taiping Island included Interior Minister Lee Hung-yuan, Coast Guard Administration chief Wang Chin-wang and Deputy Presidential Office Secretary-General Hsiung Kuang-hua.

The South China Sea and its archipelagos, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, are claimed either entirely or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Covering an area of 0.49 square kilometers, Taiping Island lies about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

On Aug. 20, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Taiwan has informed its neighboring countries that it plans to conduct a live-fire training exercise on Taiping Island Sept. 1-5.

“It means those countries will be able to warn their ships to avoid the waters near Taiping Island during the routine exercise,” MOFA spokesman Steve Hsia said.

In an effort to beef up defenses in the region, the Ministry of National Defense delivered a shipment of 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars to Taiping Island in early August.

Besides Taiping Island, Taiwan also controls the Pratas, better known as Dongsha in Mandarin Chinese, which is the largest island cluster in the South China Sea.

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