Taiwan stages live-fire exercises in hotly contested Spratly Island chain

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 2:22am


Taiwan's coastguard said yesterday that Taipei had staged a live-fire drill within a hotly contested island chain in the South China Sea, in a move that risks stoking regional tensions.

More than 2,000 rounds of ammunition were fired by garrison forces on Taiwan-administered Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, Wang Chin-wang, chief of the Coast Guard Administration, told parliament.

It was Taipei's first live-fire drill in the Spratlys - claimed in whole or part by Taiwan, mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei - since long-range mortars and artillery were shifted to Taiping Island in August last year.

The exercise took place in the middle of this month, Wang said.

Taiwanese legislator Lin Yu-fang, who sits on the bench of parliament's defence and diplomacy committee, asked Wang to disregard possible reaction from other claimants.

"Taiping Island is part of our territory. You just did what you should do. You've done a good job," Lin said.

Wang said the live rounds included 40mm artillery shells and 120mm mortars, which were transported to the island last year. Vietnam expressed its anger over the new weapons.

All claimants to the Spratlys, apart from Brunei, have troops based in the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which cover a vast area but have a total land mass of less than five square kilometres.