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Pier-building equipment arrives on Taiping Island: lawmaker
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-06-17 03:54 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Heavy equipment arrived on Taiping Island in the disputed Spratly Islands last month to prepare for the building of a pier, ruling Kuomintang legislator Lin Yu-fang said Tuesday.

Construction came amid rising tension between China and several other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, about numerous disputed islands and uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea. Lin, a well-known defense expert at the Legislative Yuan, was quoted by the Chinese-language United Evening News.

Taiping Island is the largest of the Spratly Islands, the only one with a fresh water source, and also the site of a Taiwanese-built military airport.

The pieces of heavy equipment necessary for the construction of a pier left Taiwan’s main island on May 10 and arrived on Taiping eight days later, Lin said. Six or seven ships made the journey under protection of five or six Navy and Coast Guard frigates with dozens of armed marines on board, according to the United Evening News. Lin described the trip as tough because of the difficulty the ships had to maneuver.

The arrival of the equipment signified the transition from a purely theoretical plan to the practical phase of the actual construction, he said.

Once the project was completed by the end of 2015, 3,000-ton vessels from the Navy and the Coast Guard would be able to dock directly at the island, while they could also use it as a base from which to protect Taiwanese fishing trawlers operating in the area, reports said. Scientific research and oil exploration would also become more convenient for Taiwan, while its claims of sovereignty over disputed islands would be reinforced, Lin said.

Taiping was named after a Republic of China Navy vessel which sailed to the island in 1946, allowing the Kuomintang government to lay claim to the area the following year. It lies about 1,600 kilometers from Kaohsiung, under which it officially resorts.

Taiwan has had a constant presence since 1956, with the Coast Guard replacing a Marine Corps in 2000. Then-President Chen Shui-bian became the first Taiwanese head of state to visit the island in 2008, while later several construction projects started, including an antenna tower and the extension of the airstrip.

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