Taiwan holds live-fire drill in Spratlys: official
Coast Guard Administration (CGA) personnel stationed on Taiping Island in the South China Sea conducted a live-fire drill earlier this month as part of its task of safeguarding the country's sovereignty over the area, an official confirmed Monday.
"The live ammunition drill was conducted in mid-April" and involved weapons deployed on Taiping, the largest island in the Spratlys archipelago, CGA Minister Wang Jinn-wang said at a hearing of the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Wang made the remarks in response to questions from Legislator Lin Yu-fan of the ruling Kuomintang about the live-fire drill.
Wang said the drill was carried out successfully and noted that the coast guard personnel stationed on Taiping hold a live-fire drill every six months.
The latest drill incorporated 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars, which were being used on the island for the first time, according to Lin.
The weapons were deployed on Taiping by the Ministry of National Defense last August to reinforce the island's defenses amid competing territorial claims and tension in the South China Sea region.
The CGA's last Taiping live-fire drill, conducted last September, included machine guns and 81-mm mortars. At that time, they also practiced the emergency setting up of the 40-mm anti-aircraft guns and 120-mm mortars, but did not fire them.
In recent months, no Vietnamese government ships have been spotted in the waters within 6,000 meters of Taiping, Wang said, although he added that the Vietnamese fishing boats still operate in waters near the island. Vietnam is one of the claimants to the disputed area of the South China Sea.
With an area of some 0.49 square kilometers, Taiping lies about 1,600 km southwest of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
The South China Sea region, thought to be rich in oil deposits and marine biodiversity, is claimed either entirely or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.