July 13, 2016 – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen today vowed to defend the island’s sovereignty over Taiping Island as she dispatched a frigate on a patrol mission to the South China Sea.
The patrol mission comes a day earlier than scheduled after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled that Taiping Island and other features in the Spratly archipelago are legally “rocks” which are not entitled to a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
“The award of the South China Sea arbitration, especially its definition of Taiping Island, has seriously infringed our territorial claims and rights over islands in the South China Sea.
“This vessel represents the Republic of China. And your uniforms represent the entrustment of the people. This patrol mission is to show the resolve of the Taiwanese people in defending their national interest,” Tsai Ing-wen told the officers on board the frigate.
Taiping Island – which is the largest natural feature in the Spratly where Taiwan has military presence – has been occupied by the Taiwan government since 1956. Former President Ma Ying-jeou flew a group of foreign journalists to Taiping Island in March just to prove that it is habitable.
Taiping’s island status gives Taiwan an exclusive economic zone with a radius of 200 nautical miles. But the latest ruling, which has downgraded Taiping to a rock, has limited Taiwan’s claim to a territorial sea extending out 12 nautical miles from Taiping Island.