International media are being invited to visit Taiping Island in the Spratly Islands for the first time next week for a tour and press conference, in an attempt by the R.O.C government of Taiwan to prove that Taiping is indeed an island and not a reef.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to fly reporters along with legal and environmental scholars to the island in an air force C-130 Hercules next week on March 23.
The island is occupied by Taiwan but part of contested territory in the South China Sea. Claimants include the People’s Republic of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. President Ma Ying-jeou visited the island in January 2016 to inspect facilities and to reaffirm his country’s sovereignty over the archipelago.
Taiwan recently completed a USD $100 million upgrade to port facilities on the island, and built a lighthouse. The island has an airstrip, a hospital, and several wells supplying fresh water.
Late last year, the Philippines brought a case to The Hague, arguing that the Spratly Islands are incapable of sustaining human habitation or economic life of their own. The Philippines claim that Taiping is a rock, not an island, and therefore cannot warrant a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang first proposed that international media should be invited to visit the island for a press conference in 2013.