Taiwanese soldiers fire a mortar during a drill on Taiping Island, Sept. 4. (Photo courtesy of Military News Agency)
Taiwan has taken note of Vietnam's protest against a live fire drill on Taiping Island in the disputed South China Sea, but remains unmoved in its position on the issue, an official from the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.
"Taiping Island is part of the Republic of China's territory," said Wang kuo-jan, an official at the ministry's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "We have noted Vietnam's dissatisfaction over the drill...No one has the right to protest over Taiwan's exercise of its sovereign rights there," he said.
Taiwan's coast guard is currently conducting a live fire drill on Taiping, the largest of the Spratly islands, which lies about 1,600 kilometers southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
The military exercise is meant to safeguard the sovereignty of the ROC, Wang said, commenting on an editorial on the English website of a Chinese newspaper that said Taiwan's live drill will help the Chinese people defend their sovereignty over the islands.
"We appreciate this exercise, which helps protect Chinese sovereignty," the nationalistic tabloid Global Times, which is published under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party, wrote in the editorial on its website a day earlier. As China views Taiwan as part of its territory, the party-run newspaper adjudges the drill to be a defense of Chinese terriory and therefore in line with Beijing's own interests.
The editorial also said Taiwan has several unique advantages that put it in a good position to take action to defend Chinese sovereignty at a time when China has to juggle its resources in tackling rows involving Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan and US influence in the Pacific.
Last month, Taiwan deployed 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars on Taiping to beef up defense there, a move that Wang said was taken at the right time and in the right place.
Other recent actions such as visits to the South China Sea area by legislators and National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen to Taiping were meant to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the islands amid growing tensions among neighboring countries because of the territorial dispute, Wang said. "We can't wait until others step into our door to express our views," he said. The more one delays dealing with the issue, the bigger the price one will have to pay, he said.
Six countries — Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim all or part of the South China Sea and its island chains.
Taiwan controls the Pratas — the largest South China Sea island group known locally as the Dongsha islands — and Taiping, the largest of the Spratly chain.