President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday addresses dignitaries and the crew of the Dyi-huah frigate at Zuoying naval base in Kaohsiung (Photo: Taiwan Ministry of Defence)

Taiwan rejects ruling on South China Sea with Taiping Island defined as ‘rocks’

Immediately after the Permanent Court of Arbitration had ruled that China has no basis legal on South China Sea, Taiwan said it does not accept a tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea.

The Taiwanese-held island Itu Aba, also known as Taiping Island, had been defined as ‘rocks’ by the court. Therefore, it is not qualified for a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and only entitled to 12-nautical mile around the territory. The analysts concluded this 110-acre Itu Aba was not an island because it could not sustain human habitation or economic activity.

Taiwan has been controlling over Itu Aba since 1956. In recent months, Taiwan has actively promoted its presence on Itu Aba and had invited journalists and scholars on inspection trips.

Taiwan and China make the same claims over the South China Sea on paper. The nine-dash line that China used to claim is based on a map issued in the late 1940s by China then-Nationalist Government, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists. Since then, these two countries have based their claims on the line. Although their claims overlap those of four ASEAN states, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2004, Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan at the time said, “There is a basic principle in the Law of the Sea. Thus marine claims begin with land.”

Presidential Office Spokesman, Alex Huang, said that Taiwan had never participated in the tribunal and that it had never sought any input from Taiwan. The ruling had damaged Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty over territory and waters in the area, he said.

“We reiterate that the South China Sea islands and related seas belong to the Republic of China. This is our stance and insistence. We will definitely protect our nation’s sovereign territories and rights, and will not let any harm come to our nation’s interests,” he stated.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen sent a naval frigate to patrol the disputed waterway. The navy had deployed a 2,000-tonne coast guard vessel on Sunday to the island. This mission was scheduled on Tuesday, but the departure of the ships was moved up a day after the tribunal’s announcement. “The mission of this voyage is to display Taiwan people’s resolve in defending the national interest,” she said in a speech before the departure of La Fayette-class frigate.

Ms. Tsai said that the decision made by the tribunal had “gravely harmed” Taiwan’s rights in the South China Sea.  “The arbitration ruling, and especially the decision on Taiping Island, seriously undermines our country’s rights in the South China Sea,” Tsai said in a speech Wednesday.

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