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Drills held on Taiwan-controlled Taiping island in South China Sea

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Weapons that were previously sent to Taiping Island to beef up its defenses last year have recently been tested during a live-fire drill held at the nation's island territory in the South China Sea, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said yesterday.

Eight 40 mm autocannons and several 120 mm mortars, which were shipped to the island last August, joined in a live-ammunition exercise held in mid-April, CGA Minister Wang Ginn-wang (王進旺) said yesterday in the Legislative Yuan.

Other weapons used by CGA personnel stationed at the island, including 81 mm mortars, 20 mm autocannons and 40 mm grenades, were also featured during the exercise, Wang noted. A total of 2,000 shells were fired during the drill, he added.

The drill is presided over by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and held every six months at Taiping, he added.

Wang made the remark in response to a ruling party lawmaker's question yesterday who asked the CGA head to confirm the live-fire exercise.

Taiping, a 0.49-square-kilometer island, is the largest in the Spratly Island group, which lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan.

Taiwan, mainland 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.

The CGA has had personnel stationed on Taiping since the R.O.C. Marines pulled out in 1999. Coast Guardsmen are given extensive training by the marines before being sent to the disputed island.

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A 120 mm mortar, which was shipped to Taipei Island last August, is fired in a live-fire exercise earlier this month. Weapons that were previously sent to Taiping Island to beef up its defenses last year have recently been tested in live-fire exercises held at the nation's island territory in the South China Sea, the Coast Guard Administration said yesterday.

(CNA)

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