Friday, July 20, 2012

Taiwan’s South China Sea Plan

A ROCAF Hercules C-130 on the airstrip at Taiping
Whether Taiwan intends to militarize Taiping Island remains to be seen, but the signs seem to point in that direction 

Strategically located in the middle of the Spratly island chain in the hotly contested South China Sea, Taiping Island (太平島) ispreciousreal estate. Besides being the largest feature in the Spratlys, the Taiwan-controlled island is home to one of the only two airstrips in the area that is long enough to accommodate large aircraft such as the Hercules C-130. 

Situated a mere 800km from the Scarborough Shoal, less than 600km from Vietnam’s coast and 500km from the Philippines island of Palawan, Taiping can be instrumental for projecting power and securing sea lanes in an area that is home to overlapping sovereignty claims between China, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan. As a bonus, Taiping has abundant fisheries and is the only island in the Spratlys to feature an indigenous supply of fresh water. 

Taiwan is now reportedly assessing the possibility of adding 300-500m to the 1,150m runway, which it completed in 2008 amid protests by regional countries. And there is talk that it could deploy P-3C ASW aircraft there once they enter service next year.

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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