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May 1, 2017

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MND will not make public Marines Taiping drill video

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said it decided not to make public a video recording of the military drill conducted by Taiwan's Marine Corps on a Taiwan-controlled island in the South China Sea.

The MND's announcement came as a major about-face one day after Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) promised on Monday at a Legislature committee meeting to do so in order to publicize the military's efforts to protect the country's territory in the disputed sea.

At the Legislative Yuan's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee meeting on Monday, Kuomintang lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) disclosed that the Navy dispatched a Marine Corps unit to conduct an amphibious landing drill on Taiping Island on April 10.

During the drill, marines in more than 20 assault vehicles launched an amphibious landing on the shores of Taiping, he said.

Lin said that this was the largest live-fire exercise conducted by Taiwan's military on the island since the Marine Corps withdrew from the island in 1999.

According to Lin, a group of lawmakers across party lines, including himself, watched a live broadcast of the exercise at the Navy's Command Headquarters in Taipei.

The lawmaker praised the exercise, saying that it asserted Taiwan's territorial claim and shows that the military is capable of fending off potential enemies in the disputed area.

At Lin's behest, Hsia, who was fielding questions during the meeting on Monday, agreed to release a video recording of the drill so that the public and Taiwan's neighbors can see the R.O.C. Armed Forces' efforts to protect Taiwan's territory.

However, the MND later decided to revoke the decision.

The MND yesterday expressed gratitude to Lin for his long-time support of the R.O.C. Armed Forces and promised to make public other national defense-related issues in the future as long as they don't concern sensitive information.

But the ministry stressed that it would be inappropriate for the military to make a video recording of the drill public.

Taiping, a 0.49-square-kilometer island, is the largest in the Spratly Island group, which lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan.

Taiwan, mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all claim total or partial sovereignty over the South China Sea.

Taiwan's Coast Guard has had personnel stationed on Taiping Island since the Marine Corps pulled out in 1999.

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