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May 30, 2017

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Lawmakers urge MOFA to set up foreign media trip to Taiping

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lawmakers yesterday urged the Foreign Ministry to arrange a trip for international media to a Taiwan-controlled island in the South China Sea as a move to demonstrate the nation's sovereignty in the disputed area.

Several legislators across the party line yesterday made the proposal to Foreign Minister David Lin during a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Yuan.

The ruling Kuomintang's Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said Taiping Islet, the biggest island in the Spratly chain in the South China Sea, has been under Taiwan control for decades.

However, a newly adopted Vietnamese law lists the Spratly islands as Vietnamese territory despite Taiwan's claim, he said.

To demonstrate the nation's sovereignty over the area, the Foreign Ministry should learn from South Korea's experience to organize a foreign media trip to the territory, he added.

Lin's proposal was immediately backed by several opposition lawmakers.

Aside from holding an international press conference at the islet, opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang further proposed that the government should take punitive actions against Vietnam, including stopping the issuance of visas to Vietnamese travelers and laborers.

Asked to comment, Minister Lin, who fielded questions in the same session yesterday, said his ministry has issued a press release to protest the Southeast Asian country's controversial move in the region.

He, however, promised to take lawmakers' proposal into consideration.

Last October, the South Korean government organized a media tour for selected foreign media organizations to a disputed rocky islet chain group called Dokdo, known as Takeshima in Japan, in the East China Sea.

The controversial trip drew strong protest from Tokyo, which also claims the island.

Lackluster Diaoyutais Fan Page

Meanwhile, opposition lawmakers yesterday also criticized the Foreign Ministry of not doing enough to demonstrate the country's sovereignty in the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.

A Facebook page called "Our Diaoyutais" (我們的釣魚台), financed by the Foreign Ministry and maintained by the semi-official Central News Agency (CNA), has received lackluster support.

  According to DPP's Tsai, only 231 people clicked "like" and became fans of the page ever since its debut in November 2012, showing the ministry has done a lousy job in promoting the page and showcasing Taiwan's sovereignty claim.

Also, one of the latest posts on the page showed a protest recently staged in Hong Kong regarding the Diaoyutais sovereignty issue, Tsai said.

This could send an easily misinterpreted message to the international community that Taiwan is working with China regarding the East China Sea row.

In response, Lin stressed that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will not join hands in resolving the sovereignty dispute. He would ask the CNA to conduct review over the Facebook page.

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