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July 27, 2017

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Taiwanese university students wrap up visit to Spratly Islands

TAIPEI -- A group of Taiwanese university students and professors wrapped up a trip on Sunday to the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea as part of Taiwan's all-out defense education, the Ministry of National Defense said.

Twelve students at Tainan-based National Cheng Kung University and three professors embarked on the 7-day trip to Taiping Island, among the Spratly island group, on July 9, the ministry said in a statement.

The visit was aimed at helping the students gain a better understanding of the country's South China Sea policies, the ministry's defense efforts and issues such as ecological protection, the ministry added.

The purpose of the trip was also to "assert the country's sovereignty" over the region, the ministry said.

The group boarded the Chengkung class frigate and traveled to Taiping with the Navy. They spent one day on the island.

Most of the group members are graduate students at the university's Institute of Ocean Technology and Marine Affairs.

This marked the second year the defense ministry has organized a visit for university students to Taiping.

Taiping Island is the largest of the Spratly Islands, which lie about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. The Spratlys consist of more than 750 reefs, islets and atolls.

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

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