Taiwan quietly holds ceremony marking port opening on disputed Spratly island | Singapore Informer

TAIPEI–Taiwan’s Interior Ministry announced on Dec. 12 the completion of port facilities on Taiping island, part of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Although a ceremony was held to mark the opening, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou did not attend, partly due to concerns raised by the United States about the international impact of such a visit. China has been escalating efforts to effectively control the Spratlys, which have heightened tensions in the South China Sea. Taiwan built the port facilities on an island that it effectively controls, but which is also known as Itu Aba island and claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam. Although Taiping island only has a total mass of about 0.5 square kilometer, it is the largest natural island among the Spratlys, lying about 1,600 kilometers from southern Taiwan. Over a two-year construction period, Taiwan not only reinforced the existing runway, but also constructed a lighthouse and harbor where large ships can dock. According to the Taiwan newspaper United Evening News, Ma decided not to attend the ceremony because of concerns it could affect the sale of weapons to Taiwan by the United States. In Ma’s place, Chen Wei-zen, the interior minister, attended. However, Ma could still possibly visit Taiping before his term in office ends. William Stanton, who now heads the Center for Asia Policy at the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan after serving as the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, pointed to the November meeting between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first time the leaders of Taiwan and China have ever met. “If…

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