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Taiwan Fishing Boats Start Trip to Defend Contested Island

A Taiwanese fishing boat flying national flags prepares to leave for the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island from Taiwan's southern port city of Pingtung, Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Taiwan Fishing Boats Start Trip to Defend Contested Island
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Editors Note: Taiping is actually to the southwest of the Island of Taiwan.

Five fishing boats sailed Wednesday from southern Taiwan heading for an area in the South China Sea.

The trip is meant to dispute a ruling by an international court that calls a land formation in the Spratly island chain a rock rather than an island.

The boats left from Pingtung County for a 10-day trip. Fifteen people are operating the boats. Their goal is to reach the land formation known as Taiping or Itu Aba.

Taiping is controlled by Taiwan.

Luo Chiang-fei is a spokesman for the fishing boat operators. He said the fishermen will show that Taiping is an island and that it belongs to Taiwan.

The spokesman said Taiwan’s coast guard will observe the fishing boats but will not follow them to the land formation. Taiping is about 2000 kilometers southeast of Taiwan.

Once the boats reach it, they will be safe because of the coast guard presence there.

Taiwan is involved in a dispute with China and five other countries over islands, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea. Other nations include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China claims most of the South China Sea as its territory.

On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague made a decision on China’s claims to the waterway. That ruling rejected the historical basis for China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

However, the court also said many small land formations, including Taiping, do not qualify as islands. This means that they also do not qualify for wide economic zones in surrounding waters.

Taiping is 1,400 meters long and 400 meters wide.

Both China and Taiwan denounced the ruling, which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Taiwan and China and other countries now may look to discussions to ease tensions over territorial claims in the waterway.

Taiwan has built up Taiping with an airstrip, pier, a solar energy project and a humanitarian rescue center.

The South China Sea is valued for its natural resources including fishing areas, oil, and natural gas. It also has important shipping lanes for international trade.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Ralph Jennings wrote this story for VOA News. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

fishermenn. people who catch fish

zonesn. sections in an area that are used for a particular purpose

airstripn. an area of land that is used as a runway for airplanes to take off and land

piern. a structure that goes out from a shore into the water

shipping lanesn. official routes that ships must follow when they sail from one place to another