Taip­ing build­ing for hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief ex­clu­sively: MOFA

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY JOSEPH YEH

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.

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