Saturday, January 12, 2013

Taiwan to expand Taiping wharf in South China Sea

The Taiwan government plans to expand its wharf at Taiping Island in the South China Sea to accommodate larger vessels as part of its ongoing military enhancement project in the disputed region, a local newspaper said yesterday.

The Coast Guard Administration (CGA), which is responsible for defending the outlying islet, is expected to spend NT$19 million (US$656,032) to upgrade Taiping's wharf facilities, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported. These improvements will allow 500-ton or larger vessels to dock in the port, the newspaper added.

The project is part of the CGA's plan to enhance its military presence in the area amid escalating tensions over the region.

Currently the wharf at Taiping Island - the largest island in the Spratly isles - is relatively outdated. Only smaller speedboats may dock at its facilities.

According to a budget proposal made by the CGA for fiscal year 2013, the administration will spend a total of NT$143 million on a two-year project at the islet to boost its defence capability. Of this sum, NT$19 million will be used to refurnish the wharf, the report said.

In September of last year, eight sets of 40mm autocannons and several 120mm mortars were installed on the Taiwan-controlled islet.

Taiping, which lies around 1,600 kilometres southwest of Kaohsiung, is currently manned by more than 100 Coast Guard troops.

Other than the wharf, facilities on Taiping also include a radar station, a meteorological centre, a power plant, and an airstrip, which was built in 2008 as well as a shelter for fishermen.

Mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also claim all or part of the Spratly archipelago.-Asia News Network (January 12, 2012 2:00PM)

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