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Translated by Bing-sheng Lee

On January 28, Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou will visit Itu Aba Island in the South China Sea, which is also known as Taiping Island. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterates the country’s sovereignty over the island and stresses that Itu Aba is an inherent part of Republic of China’s territory, so it is normal that Taiwan’s president visits the island and shows appreciation for government workers stationed there.

MOFA has invited president-elect Tsai Ing-wen, also chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party, to assign representatives to accompany the president on the trip. But the party says that it will not send any delegate along. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s representative in Taiwan has made a strong protest against Ma’s trip.

ETtoday reports, Ma intended to visit Taiping Island to attend the opening ceremony of a new dock and lighthouse on the island in mid-December last year. The trip was also planned as a response to the South China Sea disputes aroused by China’s proactive actions in the area, affirming Taiwan’s sovereignty over Itu Aba Island.

However, the US allegedly voiced its opposition against the trip via the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Ma thus postponed the plan and assigned Minister of the Interior, Chen Wei-zen, and Minister of Coast Guard Administration, Wang Chung-yi, to carry out the mission instead.

Taiwan presidential spokesperson, Chen Yi-hsin, emphasizes that President Ma has never excluded the possibility of visiting Taiping Island and that former president Chen Shui-bian also visited the island during his tenure. MOFA has officially informed its allies of Ma’s trip.

The US Voices Disappointment Regarding the Visit

AIT’s spokesperson Sonia Urbom says, “We are disappointed that President Ma Ying-jeou plans to travel to Taiping Island.” She stresses that the move by no means helps maintain the peace and stability in the South China Sea.

“Such an action is extremely unhelpful and does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea,” adds Urbom.

On a visit to Beijing on January 27, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington and Beijing needed to find a way to ease tensions in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

The US wanted Taiwan and all claimants to lower tensions rather than taking actions that could raise them.

David Lin, minister of MOFA, states that Taiwan has already informed the US of the visit in advance. The US and Taiwan adopt different stands on this issue and the ministry will continue to communicate with the country.

Vietnam’s Representative Files Formal Protest

Tran Duy-hai, Vietnam’s representative in Taiwan, says that Vietnam is against President Ma’s visit to Itu Aba Island. The visit has violated Vietnam’s stand on the issue and he will issue a complaint to related authorities in Taiwan.

Tran says that China’s proactive acts in the South China Sea have exacerbated tensions in the region. If President Ma goes to Itu Aba Island now, the entire world will oppose the idea and Vietnam is firmly against it.

Filipino Columnist Criticizes China for Reclaiming Islands in the South China Sea

CNA reports, Manila Bulletin, a mainstream news outlet in the Philippines, published an article written by columnist Jose Zaide. In the article, Zaide shares his visit to Itu Aba Island and proves that the island does have conditions suitable for permanent inhabitation and economic activities.

Zaide writes in his column that he and his companies drank local coconut milk and water from wells, and ate meals made from local produce and meat. Only the rice was not locally grown and was imported from Taiwan. He says that although there is a runway for planes on the island, Taiwan has not tried to develop the land through artificially altering the terrain of the isle, implicitly criticizing China for its building of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Edited by Olivia Yang

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