Tai­wan holds res­cue ex­er­cise in dis­puted South China Sea

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Tai­wan held a searc­hand-res­cue ex­er­cise in the South China Sea yes­ter­day as part of ef­forts to ce­ment its hold over a key is­land in the strate­gi­cally vi­tal wa­ter­body.

Eight ves­sels and three air­craft took part in the drill sim­u­lat­ing a fire aboard a cargo ship that forced crew mem­bers to seek safety on Taiping in the Spratly is­land group. Both coast guard and navy ships par­tic­i­pated in the ex­er­cise.

While Tai­wan claims all of the Spratlys, it only oc­cu­pies Taiping and hasn’t chal­lenged the pres­ence of forces from China and other na­tions on other is­lands in the group. Coast guard head Lee Chung-wei told jour­nal­ists that Tai­wan’s sovereignty over Taiping is “un­de­ni­able,” but that it wants to turn the is­land into a base for hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief mis­sions in the area. “The pur­pose of this drill is to tell in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety that we are keen to con­duct hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief on the is­land. We want to main­tain peace in this re­gion and put away dis­putes,” Lee said.

In re­cent years, Tai­wan’s chief ri­val, China, has been ag­gres­sively push­ing its claim to vir­tu­ally the en­tire South China Sea, putting it in con­flict with neigh­bors Viet­nam and the Philip­pines. Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea, while In­done­sia has be­come in­creas­ingly as­sertive in de­fend­ing its ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone that en­com­passes rich fish­eries and a po­ten­tial wealth of min­eral re­sources.—AP

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