Taiwan to increase military presence on South China Sea island

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   April 18, 2017 at 9:44 PM
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April 18 (UPI) -- Taiwan continues to militarize an island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Taiwan's Apple Daily reported Tuesday the Taiwanese military is proposing reinforcements on Taiping, also known as Itu Aba Island.

A remote-controlled multiple rocket launcher with anti-landing capabilities would form the backbone of a coastal defense system, Taipei's ministry of national defense stated in its proposal.

Taipei is also reviewing the possibility of deploying a short-range automated defense XTR-102 weapons system, which includes two T-75 20mm automatic guns.

The weapons, developed by Taiwan's Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, can be all be operated remotely, the Taipei Times reported.

Taiwan has currently deployed 40mm anti-aircraft artillery, a 120mm mortar and AT-4 anti-armor rockets.

Militarization of China-claimed islands in the South China Sea is ongoing, but international interest has waned in Beijing's actions with the recent escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China has already built runways and aircraft hangars on artificial islands in the Spratlys.

In early April, China deployed its J-11 fighter jets to the Paracel Islands, also claimed by Vietnam.

Vietnam has placed a system of long-range rockets on an island close to Taiping, and the Philippines is expected to conduct a joint drill with U.S. forces in May.

Taiwan's defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said the ministry has a "well-rounded and comprehensive plan" to defend Taiwan's territorial waters, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

In September 2016, Taiwan had already begun building anti-aircraft defenses on Taiping Island.

Satellite images showed the Taiwan-occupied island includes what appears to be anti-aircraft gun blockhouse towers.

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