Taiwan ‘will consider’ hosting US warships on Taiping Island for regional security

  • Defence minister says island’s government will consider allowing US vessels access to Taiping Island if it is in Taiwan’s interests.
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 10:19pm

Taiwan “will consider” a US Navy request should Washington ask to use the largest of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea for regional security purposes, the island’s defence minister said on Monday in response to a series of hypothetical questions from a member of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Yen De-fa told the opposition Kuomintang’s Johnny Chiang that Taiwan could also allow US warships to dock at Taiping Island, which is under Taipei’s control, for humanitarian operations.

Beijing views Taiwan – which broke away after the end of the civil war in 1949 – as its territory and subject to eventual union, if necessary by force.

Beijing has warned Washington, which has undertaken to support Taiwan’s security, against cooperating with Taipei militarily or supplying it with arms.

Beijing and Taipei lay territorial claims to most parts of the South China Sea, and have control on some of the contested islets in the Spratlys, where jurisdiction is claimed by several Southeast Asian countries.

China denies request for Hong Kong port call by American warship

At a parliament panel meeting, Yen told Chiang whether it was for humanitarian or regional security grounds, the island’s government would consider allowing US vessels access to Taiping Island if that suited Taiwan.

“If it is based on security concerns that would affect the region, we will consider that,” Yen said. “This must also be in line with our national interests.”

Chiang said that the regular presence of US aircraft carrier groups in international waters in the South China Sea was aimed at checking the military expansion of Beijing, and, according to Chiang, the US might eventually make a port call at Taiping Island in addition to Singapore and the Philippines.

The US naval sorties – on the grounds of freedom of navigation in international waters close to the contested islets in the South China Sea – draw protests from Beijing.