Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday invited Philippine government representatives and members of an international arbitration tribunal to a disputed South China Sea island for a visit.
“I, as Republic of China president, formally invite the Philippines government to send a representative or lawyer to visit Taiping Island,” Ma said, referring to Taiwan by its official name and to the island that Taiwan controls by its Taiwanese name.
The Philippines has challenged the legality of claims by China, that mirror those of Taiwan, to most of the South China Sea, presenting its case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in November.
Ma was speaking at a press briefing after international journalists were allowed to visit the island, also known as Itu Aba, for the first time on Wednesday.
Taiwan flew international media in an attempt to reinforce its territorial claims in the disputed and increasingly tense region.
Deputy Foreign Minister Bruce Linghu, who was leading the trip, said he intended to demonstrate that Taiping is an island capable of sustaining human habitation, and not simply a “rock” as the Philippines claims in a case brought before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Islands are entitled to territorial waters, an exclusive economic zone and other rights not enjoyed by mere rocks.
Two dozen journalists flown to the island aboard a Taiwanese air force C-130 transport landed on an airstrip on Taiping guarded by coast guard sentries with rifles. They were shown the island’s post office and its fresh water well, and were to later visit the harbor and a traditional Chinese temple. Read More