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International media group makes 1st visit to Taiping

March 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Members of the first international media group to visit Taiping Island assemble for a group photo March 23 outside the ROC Coast Guard Administration Nansha Command Post. (MOFA)

The first visit to Taiping Island by an international media group took place March 23, and ROC President Ma Ying-jeou offered the same opportunity to the Philippines government.

Organized by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the foreign contingent included 12 journalists from global news outlets like Agence France-Presse, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Bloomberg, CNN, Financial Times, Kyodo News, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

MOFA Deputy Minister Bruce J. D. Linghu, who led the group on its one-day trip, said Taiping Island is the largest naturally formed island in the Nansha chain and capable of fully sustaining its residents.

Ma said he formally invites the Philippines government to send representatives to tour the island in an effort to help the government of the Southeast Asian nation understand that Taiping Island is an island and not a rock, as it argues in an international tribunal. He also welcomes the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to perform a site visit.

“Taiping Island boasts human habitation, has an economic life and fully meets the definition of an island as laid out in Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Ma said while addressing the media group upon their return.

“The goal of the ROC government’s management of Taiping Island is to transform it into an island for peace and rescue operations, as well as an ecologically friendly and low-carbon island. We believe these efforts are well worth the attention of the international media.”

The journalists had lunch prepared from crops and poultry raised on a local farm while learning about Taiping Island’s rich history, as evidenced by a tombstone dating back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). The comprehensive tour also took them to a forest, post office, solar power facilities and Guanyin Temple built in the 1950s. In addition, they visited Nansha Hospital, which provided medical aid for ROC and foreign nationals in 23 cases between 2000 and 2015, and saw some of Taiping Island’s 14 free-roaming goats.

Linghu said the “ROC government has protected its legal rights with regard to Taiping Island by peaceful means, and is committed to its long-term policy of peaceful operations in the South China Sea.”

With an eye to promoting joint efforts in maintaining regional peace and stability, Linghu urged the international community to pay due attention to the South China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by Ma in May 2015, while including Taiwan in related multilateral talks.

The peace initiative promotes the sharing of resources while resolving disputes, Ma said, adding that the collaborative framework, as well as the ROC experience on Taiping Island, serves as a model for the South China Sea. (YHC-JSM)

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