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September 23, 2017

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Ma to visit islet near Tiaoyutais on Friday: Presidential Office

President Ma Ying-jeou's inspection tour to an islet located north of Taiwan near the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands will take place this Friday, the Presidential Office announced yesterday.

Ma will be joined by a number of ministers as well as lawmakers and members of the media during his upcoming trip to the Pengjia Islet, Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said yesterday.

After he inspects Pengjia, which is one of the northernmost Taiwan-controlled islets, Ma will also deliver an address on the "East China Sea Peace Initiative" he proposed last month which was aimed to help deal with the sovereignty dispute in the region, Fan Chiang said.

Ma will propose follow-up measures to put the initiative into practice while again urging all parties involved to put aside differences, engage in peaceful discussion and cooperate in developing the resources in the region, he said.

The upcoming visit to Pengjia is part of the president's ongoing project to travel to all offshore islands and townships in Taiwan during his capacity as head of state, he said.

Ma has always wanted to visit the islet even before he broached the peace initiative on Aug. 5, but he temporarily called off the planned visit after several typhoons hit Taiwan during the past several weeks, the spokesman added.

The Presidential Office has arranged for local reporters to take a Coast Guard Patrol vessel to the islet located 56 kilometers northeast of Taiwan's northern city of Keelung, Fan Chiang said.

The Presidential Office's announcement came two days after a Chinese-language news report quoted sources as saying that Ma will inspect the northern islet soon.

Since the islet is the nearest Taiwan-controlled territory to the Tiaoyutais, Ma's upcoming tour has been widely seen as a move to assert the nation's sovereignty over the disputed island chain.

According to the report, Ma will take a military helicopter to Pengjia to inspect the meteorological station and Coast Guard personnel stationed there; he will also be briefed by the military on the latest developments in the sovereignty row over the Tiaoyutais.

The report also says that the president will then fly east to the edge of Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), to take a closer look at the Tiaoyutai Islands. But the Presidential Office and the military both refused to confirm the itinerary.

Taiwan Reiterates Sovereignty Claim

In related news, the Executive Yuan yesterday reiterated Taiwan's claim over the Tiaoyutai Islands by saying that the Republic of China's sovereignty over the island chain will remain unchanged despite Japan's latest move to nationalize the disputed islands.

The Executive Yuan also said yesterday that the Tiaoyutais are an inherent part of the Republic of China's territory.

The Executive Yuan was responding to a report published yesterday by the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily, that the Japanese government has reached an agreement with a private owner to buy three islets of the island chain for 2.05 billion Japanese yen.

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