Compiled by Rosa Tran
18 August 2016
On 16 August, Taiwan’s Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong led a team of officials and researchers to Itu Aba Island in an attempt to reaffirm its sovereignty over the largest naturally formed feature in the Spratly Islands, according to Taiwan Today.
“As President Tsai Ing-wen stated during the July 19 National Security Council meeting, the ROC remains steadfast on its position that the South China Sea islands are an inherent part of the nation’s territory,” Yeh said during a news conference at the Ministry of the Interior in Taipei City following his one-day trip to Itu Aba Island.
“The ROC maintains all rights over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said. “While we will not assert excessive claims, we will also not give up any rights.”
Yeh and the group, which included Coast Guard Administration Minister Lee Chung-wei, Kaohsiung City Deputy Mayor Chen Chin-de and researchers involved in projects overseen by the Ministry of Science and Technology, took part in a large number of activities during the visit. Some of these were meeting with government personnel, inspecting meteorological facilities, touring fruit and vegetable gardens and attaching a new address plate to Nansha Hospital.
According to Yeh, the trip is also part of preparations to transform Itu Aba into a hub of scientific investigation on climate change and marine ecology. “Given its central location in the South China Sea and rich biodiversity, Taiping Island is ideal for conducting long-term atmospheric and marine environmental research and observation,” Yeh said, using Chinese name of Itu Aba island.
The minister also said the Central Weather Bureau will set up automatic weather observation and tidal monitoring stations next month, adding that the MOI is working with the MOST and other agencies on sharing this data and seeking international collaboration on related projects.
Other measures in the pipeline are producing a documentary on the lives of government personnel stationed on the island and staging a seminar and workshop on the government’s South China Sea policymaking. Yeh said these are part of a series of events planned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of “Taiping Island’s recovery by the ROC”.
Taiwan started occupying Itu Aba since 1946 when Japan surrendered after the World War II and has stationed its government personnel there since June 1956. The island, however, is also claimed by Vietnam and China. Vietnam has constantly protested Taiwan’s activities on the island, calling the activities “a serious violation of Viet Nam’s sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands.
In an award issued on 12 July on the South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines, the Hague Tribunal held that none of the Spratly Islands, including Itu Aba, is capable of generating exclusive economic zone. Taiwan, however, maintains that the feature, with an area of 0.51 square kilometers, can sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own, and meets the criteria of an island as defined in Article 121 of UNCLOS; thus it claims full rights associated with territorial waters, a contiguous zone, an exclusive economic zone, and a continental shelf.
Facts on the Ground and on the Waters: https://seasresearch.wordpress.com/category/south-china-sea-facts-on-the-ground-and-on-the-waters/