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Taiwan Ups the Ante in South China Sea Dispute


Taiwan will spend $106 million over the next three years to construct a naval outpost on Taiping Island in the heart of the disputed Spratly archipelago, according to a member of the country’s foreign affairs committee. Taiping (also known as Itu Aba) is the largest of the Spratly Islands and currently features an airstrip and a small wharf, both of which will be enlarged to accommodate heavier coast guard ships and aircraft.

Taiwan’s plan is part of an accelerating trend of construction and militarization in the Spratly Islands and other disputed territories in the South China Sea. All nearby countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Malaysia and Taiwan, are quietly building all manner of outposts, surveillance structures, and refueling facilities on the remote atolls and islands under their control.

The Philippines has accused China of building on the Scarborough Shoal, much as it did with a military garrison on the nearby Mischief Reef in the late 1990s. China retorted that it is doing no such thing, and that Manila is “creating trouble over nothing,” emphasizing that the territory is “intrinsically” Chinese. The Philippines angrily recalled its Ambassador for consultations.

Despite calls from numerous countries, including Taiwan, to peacefully and jointly develop the disputed islands, construction of both civil and military structures is picking up pace while discussions over a “Code of Conduct” have gone nowhere.

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