ROC reiterates South China Sea policy
The Ministry of National Defense and Mainland Affairs Council separately reiterated the ROC government’s South China Sea policy May 3 amid rising tensions among competing claimants in the region.
MND Deputy Minister Chao Shih-chang said during a Legislative Yuan Foreign and National Defense Committee hearing that “at this complicated and sensitive time in the region,” the status quo should be maintained in terms of the ROC’s weapon deployments in the Dongsha (Pratas) Islands and Taiping Island, the largest of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands.
Chao added that logistical support for the nation’s defense forces on the islands could also be affected by the installation of missiles there.
The MND said in a written report that the ROC at one time deployed two Chaparral missiles in the Dongshas but they were removed in 2001 because the Coast Guard Administration, tasked with defending the islands, did not have the capacity to maintain them.
If the missiles were redeployed there or on Taiping, the same maintenance difficulties would arise, the ministry added.
Chao said deploying short-range air defense missiles on the islands could lead to political quarrels and even impact regular patrols and humanitarian missions carried out from there, so maintaining the current situation represented the best policy option.
Lawmakers have been pushing for a stronger ROC military presence, with the committee recently freezing NT$200 million (US$6.85 million) earmarked for MND acquisitions of new equipment until the ministry submits a study on a proposal to deploy Chaparral or Tien Chien I missiles in the Dongshas and on Taiping.
After Chao’s report, the committee decided to unfreeze the funds but demanded the ministry complete its deployment of 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars on the islands.
In response to a question by Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang, Chao said the ministry did not rule out the option of dispatching naval vessels to protect Taiwan oil exploration ships conducting surveys in the region if necessary.
MAC Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun said at a regular news briefing the same day that the government would beef up the nation’s defense forces if ROC territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea was ever challenged. (SB-THN)