Upcoming Taiping Island drill routine exercise: CGA

Taipei, A three-day live-fire drill to be staged later this month at a Taiwan-controlled island in the disputed South China Sea is part of routine exercises and the government has no plans to reschedule it, even though it is to be staged near Taiwan's local government elections, an official said Thursday.

Lee Chung-wei (???), director-general of the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), confirmed that the CGA will stage the drill Nov. 21-23 at Taiping Island and surrounding waters.

Amid a call made by the Kuomintang (KMT) candidate in the Taipei mayoral election Ting Shou-chung (???) for the CGA to reschedule the drill to avoid escalating regional and cross-Taiwan Strait tension ahead of the Nov. 24 elections, Lee said the CGA has no plans to do so.

"This is part of routine training that was arranged over a year ago," Lee said.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei -- claim sovereignty over all or some of the islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters.

Lee also said that the exercise has nothing to do with a reported U.S. drill to be staged in the South China Sea in November.

According to a Wednesday CGA press release, it regularly makes announcements of upcoming live-fire exercises weeks before a drill to warn fishermen and vessels. As part of routine practice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) will be responsible for informing nearby countries about the drill.

Taiwan controls Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly Islands, located some 1,600 kilometers from Kaohsiung. With an area of only 0.51 square kilometers, it has 200 Republic of China troops stationed there but no civilian residents.

Vietnam has previously expressed concern over live-fire drills in the area.

Asked to comment, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (???) reiterated Thursday Taiwan's stance that Taiping Island is part of the nation's territory and thus the CGA has the right to conduct routine drills there.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel