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Cannons and mortars to be deployed on Taiping in South China Sea: MND

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday confirmed that it will complete the installation of a certain number of cannons and mortars on Taiping Island (太平島) in the South China Sea next month in a move to enhance its military presence in the disputed seas amid the escalating conflict over the region.

A total of eight sets of 40mm autocannons and a certain number of 120mm mortars will be shipped to the island by the end of August, unidentified MND sources told the Chinese-language United Evening News yesterday.

The latest weapons are expected to replace the existing 106mm recoilless guns and the 81mm mortars currently used by Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

The latest installation will lead to extended range and enhanced lethality, military sources said.

The CGA has been responsible for defending Taiping since the Marines were withdrawn in 1999 to ease tensions with other claimants.

Also, the MND and the CGA could hold a regular live-fire drill at some time in August in Taiping. The drill could be open to media on the demand of lawmakers, the report said.

Meanwhile, ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), who concurrently serves as convener of the Legislature's Foreign and National Defense Committee, told local media yesterday that he could lead a delegation for a tour of the island to inspect the latest installation.

Taiping is expected to see an enhanced military presence in the near future, Lin said.

Lin has previously called on the MND to consider deploying the Tien Chien I “Sky Sword” missiles on the island to beef up defensive capabilities. But the proposal was rejected by the ministry because the move could cause political controversy.

The autocannons and mortars are to be deployed after a legislative committee demanded this May that the MND should do so on Taiping Island and Dongsha Island within six months.

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

Taiwan controls the Dongsha Islands, the largest island group in the South China Sea, as well as Taiping Island.

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