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MND denies plans to deploy missiles upon Taiping Island

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday denied media reports that said it plans to deploy missiles on a Taiwan-controlled island in the South China Sea, amid escalating tensions in the region.

“The report was unfounded and far from the truth,” the MND said in a released statement.

The MND said that in accordance with government policy, the defense of Taiping Island (太平島) is the responsibility of the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

It added that the military will continue to follow government policy to help safeguard the island by offering assistance in training the coastguardsmen stationed on Taiping, which is the largest island in the Spratlys archipelago.

The MND statement came after the Chinese-language Yazhou Zhoukan (亞洲週刊) said in its latest issue that the Taiwan military is considering deploying the locally developed Tien Chien I “Sky Sword” missiles (天劍一型飛彈) on the island to beef up its defensive capabilities.

The weekly said the Taiwan government has already decided to allocate funds to upgrade the wharf and airstrip on Taiping Island in the South China Sea amid escalating tension in the disputed seas. To further beef up its military presence, Taiwan's MND is currently considering deploying Tien Chien missiles at the island, the report stated.

However, military needs to first upgrade the range of the surface-to-air defense missile system developed by its top research institute, the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST, 中山科學研究院), from the existing 9 kilometers to 13, the weekly said.

The CSIST has recently proposed an upgrading project of the missile system and it is expected to be completed in two years, it noted.

Currently, around 100 Coast Guard personnel are stationed on the island, which is 1,384 kilometers southeast of Kaohsiung.

Six governments — Taiwan, 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 Marines pulled out in 1999.

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