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July 27, 2017

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Taiwan unmoved by Vietnam's protest against Taiping drill

TAIPEI--Taiwan has taken note of Vietnam's protest against a live-fire drill on Taiping Island in the disputed South China Sea, but remains unmoved in its position on the issue, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

"Taiping Island is part of the Republic of China's territory," said Wang kuo-jan, an official at the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

"We have noted Vietnam's dissatisfaction over the drill ... No one has the right to protest over Taiwan's exercise of its sovereignty rights there," he said.

Taiwan's Coast Guard is currently conducting a live-fire drill on Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, which lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

The military exercise is meant to safeguard the sovereignty of the ROC, Wang said, commenting on an editorial on the English website of a Chinese newspaper that said Taiwan's live drill will help the Chinese people defend their sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.

"We appreciate this exercise, which helps protect Chinese sovereignty," the Global Times wrote in the editorial on its website a day earlier.

The editorial also said Taiwan had several unique advantages that put it in a good position to take action to defend Chinese sovereignty at a time when China had to juggle its resources in tackling rows involving Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan and U.S. influence in the Pacific.

Last month, Taiwan deployed 40mm anti-aircraft guns and 120mm mortars on Taiping to beef up defense there, a move that Wang said was taken at the right time and in the right place.

Other recent actions such as visits to the South China Sea area by legislators and National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen to Taiping were meant to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the islands amid growing tensions among neighboring countries because of the territorial dispute, Wang said.

"We can't wait until others step into our door to express our views," he said.

The more one delays dealing with the issue, the bigger the price one will have to pay, he said.

Six countries — Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim all or part of the South China Sea and its island chains.

Taiwan controls the Pratas — the largest South China Sea island group known locally as the Donghsa Islands — and Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands.

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