Officers from the ROC Air Force's 439th Combined Wing take photos next to a C-130 cargo aircraft on their way to join the search and rescue operation, Mar. 11. (Photo/ROCAF)
Taiwan has deployed a number of vessels to assist in the international search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, and in doing so Taiwan can solidify its position in the disputed South China Sea with the help of the United States, reports our sister newspaper Want Daily.
The missing plane carrying 239 people is believed to have gone down in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam during a scheduled passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Mar. 8. Countries locked in territorial disputes over the region, notably the Spratlys — an island chain claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam — are putting differences aside to try to find the plane. But there is a sense that the search is also a competition, with the various nations attempting to demonstrate their influence in the contested region.
A total of 153 Chinese nationals were on board the missing aircraft and Beijing has sent the largest fleet of vessels to the region, consisting of five warships, three maritime safety administration ships, a coast guard large patrol ship and a merchant ship. The United States has deployed two destroyers, a logistical vessel and one P-3C patrol aircraft at the request of Malaysia.
Taiwan has sent a C-130 Hercules cargo plane, the ROCS Tian Dan, a Cheng Kung-class guided-missile frigate and two coast guard vessels, while the country's defense ministry has said that it will send one C-130 cargo aircraft to the region every day until the operation is declared over.
Taiwan controls Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratlys. The Washington-based Voice of America has said that Taiwan could lose its position in the South China Sea if it does not do anything to solidify its presence in the area.
As most of the hardware and equipment of the ROC Air Force and Navy come from the United States, observers said Taiwan's deployment of its C-130 and Cheng Kung-class guided-missile frigate to the disputed waters could also be considered a joint military effort between Taipei and Washington.