President’s visit to Taiping Island necessary: scholars


TAIPEI–President Ma Ying-jeou’s upcoming visit to Taiping Island in the South China Sea is necessary for the Republic of China (Taiwan) to claim its sovereignty over the island, scholars said Wednesday.

During his tenure, Ma has to affirm that the island is an inherent part of the territory of Taiwan, said Alexander Huang, an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies. The timing of such a gesture is right because Taiwan’s presidential election is over, Huang said, suggesting that the political environment is now less sensitive. Ma, whose second and final term as president ends on May 20, has never been to Taiping during his nearly eight years as president.

Song Yann-huei, a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica in Taipei, also supported Ma’s decision.

The visit will reinforce Taiwan’s sovereignty claim over the island in light of China’s military buildup in the region and the Philippines’ case against Beijing in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Song said.

There is no need for Taiwan’s government to overreact to criticisms by the United States and Vietnam of Ma’s planned visit, Song said.

Taiping Island, which lies 1,600 kilometers south of Taiwan, is the largest natural island controlled by Taiwan in the disputed South China Sea.