Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Taiwan Urges Better South China Sea Defense

TAIPEI - Taiwan's security chief called Oct. 26 for improved defenses of a group of islands in the South China Sea, reacting to reports that rival claimants to the disputed waters are building up arms.
"The Spratly Islands are our territory ... We should upgrade our defense capabilities and replace some aging equipment," Tsai De-sheng, head of the national security bureau, said in parliament.
Tsai's comments came after defense minister Kao Hua-chu endorsed a plan proposed by lawmakers to deploy advanced missiles in the contested waters over concerns that Taiwan's coast guards were vulnerable.
The Taiwanese coast guard currently has a 130-strong garrison on Taiping, the biggest island in the Spratlys archipelago.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia and the Philippines claim all or part of the Spratlys, which could lie on top of large oil reserves.
All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).
Taiwan's navy in July took a group of academics to the disputed islands despite a flare-up of regional tensions over rival claims for the contested waters.
Tensions in the decades-old dispute escalated this year amid accusations from the Philippines and Vietnam that China was becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims.

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