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September 26, 2017

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President Ma leaves for Pengjia Islet

President Ma Ying-jeou will leave for the Taiwan-controlled Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼) today, as an inspection tour near the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands, amid the escalating East China Sea sovereignty row. Accompanied by ministers, legislators and media personnel, the president will reaffirm the nation's sovereignty rights to the Tiaoyutais.

According to Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi, the objectives of this tour are for the president to lay out details of the "East China Sea Peace Initiative," urge peace agreements between disputing claimants and to devise methods to develop the islands' resources.

"The main item on the president's itinerary during his visit to Pengjia Islet will be a speech on the action plan for a peace initiative he put forward last month to resolve the sovereignty dispute over the Tiaoyutais," Fan Chiang said in an interview, yesterday.

According to Fan Chiang, the president will set foot on Pengjia around noon and inspect a weather observation station and a Coast Guard Administration outpost. He will also give a speech in front of the Pengjia Stone Tablet to address the public servants stationed there.

Located about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan in the East China Sea, the Tiaoyutais are currently administered by Japan, but are also claimed by Taiwan and mainland China. The dispute over the cluster of islets, known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China, sparked a diplomatic row between Japan and the mainland after activists from Hong Kong and Japan made separate landings there in August to declare their countries' sovereignty claims.

Pengjia islet is located 33 nautical miles from Keelung Harbor, just off Taiwan's northernmost tip, and 76 nautical miles west of the Tiaoyutais.

National Defense Ramped Up

The Coast Guard Administration said seven vessels would be dispatched to patrol the waters off Taiwan's northern and northeastern coasts. The president will board an S-70C helicopter, with forces from the Navy and Coast Guard Administration patrolling the waters. To ensure the safety of the president and accompanying officials, the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard are collaborating to tighten security around the islet.

According to officials, the Coast Guard Administration has commissioned three large Navy vessels that will patrol around the islet along with various smaller-scale military ships. Members of the media aboard the warships will be able to watch the military performing emergency rescue drills near the islet. Amid media reports that the Japanese government has decided to buy three islets of the Tiaoyutais from private owners for NT$780 million to declare its claim, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) reiterated that the Pengjia islet as well as the Tiaoyutais are both Taiwan's territory.

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