Taiwan’s president, defying a rare dose of criticism from key ally the United States, visited an island in the disputed South China Sea on Thursday and called for peaceful development in the increasingly tense region.
Accompanied by about 30 staff members, Ma Ying-jeou left the capital Taipei early in the morning aboard an air force C-130 cargo plane bound for Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba.
Taiping lies in the Spratly island group, an area where Taiwan shares overlapping claims with China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The city state of Brunei also claims a part of the South China Sea.
After arriving, Ma spoke at a national monument on the islet and reiterated his call made last year for peaceful coexistence and joint development. He cited infrastructure developments on the islet, including a 10-bed hospital and a lighthouse, saying they reinforced Taiwan’s claim of sovereignty and granted it rights over the surrounding waters.
Taiwan is spending more than $100 million to upgrade the island’s airstrip and build a wharf capable of allowing its 3,000-ton coast guard cutters to dock.
“All this evidence fully demonstrates that Taiping Island is able to sustain human habitation and an economic life of its own. Taiping Island is categorically not a rock, but an island,” Ma said. Read More