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Marines conduct a drill on Spratly Islands: lawmaker

TAIPEI -- Taiwan's Marines, escorted by a fleet of Navy frigates, conducted a military drill in the disputed Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea earlier this month, a Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker disclosed Monday, saying it was an effective move to protect Taiwan's sovereignty.

The Navy sent a Marine Corps detachment to conduct an amphibious landing drill on Taiping Island (太平島) on April 10, and the exercise was streamed live to the Navy's Command Headquarters in Taipei, lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said at a hearing in the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense committee.

Lin said he was among the lawmakers invited to watch the drill at the Navy headquarters.

The participating Marines and weapons were transported to Taiping by a fleet of Navy vessels, including the Chengkung-class and Lafayette-class frigates and landing craft, Lin said.

During the drill, Marines in more than 20 assault vehicles launched an amphibious landing on the shores of Taiping, he said.

The lawmaker said the exercise played a significant role in asserting Taiwan's territorial claim and fending off possible enemies.

At Lin's urging, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) agreed to release the videos of the drill and thus publicize the military's efforts to protect the country's territory.

Taiwan-controlled Taiping, which lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung, is the largest island in the disputed Spratly chain in the South China Sea. Taiwan's Coast Guard has been assigned to protect the 0.49 square kilometer island.

The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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