Taiping building for humanitarian relief exclusively: MOFA
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said the government’s ongoing constructions on a Taiwan-controlled island in the disputed South China Sea are being carried out for humanitarian purposes only.
Answering questions during a regular briefing, Christine Hsueh ( ), MOFA’s new director general in its Department of North American Affairs, said all of the R.O.C.’s constructions on Taiping Island ( ) are being done to facilitate humanitarian assistance missions.
“We are not doing this to boost our military presence in the region but for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and environmental protection purposes,” Hsueh said.
Asked if the U.S. has expressed concern over these constructions, especially when Washington has been calling for “3 halts,” namely, a halt in reclamation, a halt in construction, and a halt in aggressive actions that could further heighten tensions in the South China Sea region, the MOFA official said that the U.S. understands Taiwan’s stance.
“We have constant dialogue with the U.S. side over the South China Sea issue and the U.S. understands our stance,” she said.
She would not confirm whether the U.S. has expressed concern or protested over the constructions, saying only that bilateral communication over the issue is going smoothly.
Located about 1,600 kilometers from the southern port city of Kaohsiung on Taiwan’s main island, Taiping Island — the largest island in the Spratly Islands — is the southernmost territory under the control of the Taiwanese government.
It is currently manned by Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (CGA) personnel.
The CGA is now expanding the wharf and the airport on the island and the projects are expected to be completed later this year.
When completed, the wharf and airport will be able to accommodate larger boats and aircraft.
Other than the wharf and airport, facilities on Taiping also include a radar station, a meteorological center, a power plant and a shelter for fishermen.
Foreign media reports have previously said that the airport renovation project could facilitate the taking off and landing of the R.O.C. Air Force’s F-16 jet fighters.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, however, later clarified that the renovations are for flight safety and will allow for the airport to be used for humanitarian missions.
After the construction is completed, the air force’s C-130 transport aircraft could be used for humanitarian efforts, according to the military.
Yesterday’s press conference was the first time Hsueh has participated as the ministry’s new chief of North American Affairs.
A former top envoy to the Czech Republic, Hsueh took over the post last month from Kelly Hsieh (
), who succeeded Henry Chen ( ) as Taiwan’s top envoy to Thailand.