Taipei, Jan 29 (EFE).- A dredging project that will allow large ships to dock at the disputed island of Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea was completed, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) of Taiwan announced on Monday.
The $54.4 million initiative will allow CGA ships of up to 4,000 tons to carry out “routine patrols” around Taiping, controlled by Taiwan since 1946, state news agency CNA reported.
The dock renovation, which was completed on Oct. 30, 2023, and passed final inspections on Jan. 20, includes a reinforcement of typhoon-related disaster prevention measures.
The announcement coincides with the request by a group of legislators for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to visit the island before leaving office on May 20.
Unlike former presidents Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai has not visited the island in the eight years of her presidency.
Taiwan has controlled Taiping Island, also called Itu Aba, since 1946 and maintains a Coast Guard detachment, a port, an airstrip and civilian facilities there.
In July 2016, the arbitration court in The Hague ruled that Taiping was a rock and not an island, thereby denying the possibility of creating a 200-nautical-mile special economic zone around it.
The ruling, rejected by both Taipei and Beijing, did not refer to the island’s sovereignty, held by Taiwan but also claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Brunei, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have entire or partial claims over 100 islands and atolls located in the South China Sea, an area rich in underwater oil and gas reserves and a major maritime transport route. EFE