Beijing calls for co-operation with Taipei on islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 June, 2011, 12:00am


The mainland has urged cross-strait co-operation in protecting the sovereignty of disputed islands in the South China Sea, amid rising tensions.

The appeal, made by Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi yesterday, came as the mainland and Taiwan reiterated their claims of sovereignty over the potentially resource-rich archipelagos.

'China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters,' Yang told a news conference in Beijing. 'People from both sides of the Taiwan Strait have a shared responsibility to safeguard them.'

Tension in the region has increased since last month and escalated this week after the Philippines said it was renaming the South China Sea the 'West Philippine Sea' and Vietnam staged a live-fire drill in the sea, which is claimed in part or in full by the mainland, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Jon Huntsman, until recently US envoy to China, said in a forum in the US that the tensions provided 'an enormously powerful opportunity for us to shore up our ties with the Asean world'. He said the four Asean countries with claims in the South China Sea were afraid to face China alone and Washington could support them 'through multilateral problem-solving'.

Beijing sent a large patrol vessel through the South China Sea yesterday on its way to Singapore, while Taiwan plans to deploy missile boats in the disputed waters and tanks on Itu Aba, or Taiping, island, the largest of the Spratly Islands.

Pro-independence politicians in Taiwan have criticised the government for its silence on the latest row. Taipei reiterated the island's 'undisputable claim' to the Spratlys, but made no response to Yang's call for cross-strait co-operation. Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman James Chang said the island's authorities had time and again asserted Taipei's sovereignty over the Spratlys.

'It is undoubted these archipelagos fall under the sovereignty of the Republic of China,' Chang said. He called for international law to be respected and the peaceful resolution of the disputes.