Taiwan and Vietnam row over disputed island in South China Sea

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Taiwan and Vietnam row over disputed island in South China SeaTaipei (AsiaNews) – Taiwan and Vietnam have rejected each other’s official claim over “illegal” activities near a disputed small island, part of the Spratly, known as Taiping in Taiwan and Itu Aba in Vietnam.

The island is in the South China Sea. Several coastal states claim sections of it while mainland China claims almost all of it.

Taiwan yesterday strongly rejected criticism from Vietnam, which had previously called recent Taiwanese military exercises around the island “illegal”.

For Vietnam, Taiwan’s naval drill was a violation of its sovereignty, a view not shared in Taipei, for whom the island unquestionably belongs to the Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan’s official name.

In addition to Taiwan and Vietnam, the island is claimed by the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines.

The island is formally administered by Taiwan, and manned by its Coast Guard. Taiwan also administers the island of Pratas (or Dongsha), in the northern part of the South China Sea.

Several experts speculate that any Chinese invasion of Taiwan could be preceded by a military operation to seize Pratas.

Vietnam is usually at loggerheads with China over sovereign rights in the South China Sea, but it is not alone. Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and to a lesser extent Indonesia, oppose China’s territorial claims.

This has not prevented Beijing from militarising some islands and coral reefs in the vast body of water. To contain its expansion, US warships regularly patrol near these military outposts.