The president of Taiwan flew to the South China Sea Thursday to send a signal that reached as far as Washington.
President Ma Ying-jeou flew on a military aircraft to Itu Aba, a disputed island also known as Taiping Island. About 200 people live there. Some are members of Taiwan’s coast guard. The other people are mainly medical workers and scientific researchers.
Ma returned to Taipei Thursday night. His visit again brings attention to the major territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Taiwan has developed Taiping Island, a land formation in the Spratley Islands. Taiwan has set up a coast guard base with solar energy projects there. The medical workers are available to help crews from ships that pass through the waterway.
“President Ma emphasizes that Taiping Island is an inherent territory of the Republic of China,” said a presidential spokesman. The Republic of China is Taiwan’s legal name.
Five other governments claim all or part of the South China Sea. Ma’s trip comes while China continues to develop other islands there with landfill materials. Vietnam has built man-made islands in the sea. Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also claim parts of the area.
Taiping Island is 1,600 kilometers from Taiwan. The island is less than a square kilometer in area and has been used mainly as a coast guard base.
The Reuters news service reports that Taiwan just completed a port improvement project and built a new lighthouse on the island.
Wednesday, the U.S. State Department called the Taiwanese leader’s trip “unhelpful” to easing disputes in the South China Sea.
Ma called the trip to Taiping one of his biggest personal successes while president. He must leave office in May because of term limits.
I’m Jim Dresbach.
Ralph Jennings reported on this story for VOANews.com. Jim Dresbach adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
landfill – n. an area where waste is buried under the ground or dumped in a sea or ocean
lighthouse – n. a tower with a powerful light that is built on or near the shore to guide ships away from danger
solar – adj. of or related to the sun
inherent – adj. existing in something