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Tsai visit to Taiping Island unlikely: former NSC official

Tsai visit to Taiping Island unlikely: former NSC official

2024-02-06

On Taiping Island in the South China Sea, a wharf expansion project is nearing completion. The KMT is urging President Tsai Ing-wen to attend the completion ceremony, to assert Taiwan’s sovereignty over Taiping Island. The island is a source of international contention, as it is administered by Taiwan but also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam. A former National Security Council official says it is highly unlikely that Tsai will make the visit, as it would raise personal safety concerns.

Shortly before leaving office in 2008, then-President Chen Shui-bian flew to Taiping Island on a C-130 transport plane. He became the first sitting president to step foot on the island.

Chen Shui-bian (Feb. 2, 2008)
Then-president
We believe that future discussions on the South China Sea should prioritize environmental protection over sovereignty disputes. We insist on using peaceful means to resolve territorial disputes.

Chen’s visit came just weeks before the 2008 presidential election, raising objections from then-KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou. Ma argued that, as a lame-duck government, the Chen administration should instead focus on maintaining social stability and national security. But eight years later, a similar scenario played out when Ma himself was a lame-duck president.

Days after Tsai Ing-wen won the 2016 presidential election, then-President Ma visited Taiping Island to assert Taiwan’s sovereignty, sparking backlash from the international community. The AIT released a strongly worded statement describing the visit as “extremely unhelpful” to resolving disputes in the South China Sea. The AIT said it was “disappointed” that Ma had traveled to the island.

Another eight years later, a ceremony will soon be held on Taiping Island to celebrate the completion of a wharf expansion project. In addition, Taiwan plans to station a 100-ton patrol vessel at the island long-term. Ma has expressed support for President Tsai to visit the island. Deputy Legislative Speaker Johnny Chiang has done the same on social media, saying that defending national sovereignty should transcend party politics.

Su Chi
Former NSC secretary-general
I think the likelihood of a visit is rather low. I’d say it’s a 90% chance she won’t go. The U.S. wouldn’t like Taiwan to stir up controversy in the South China Sea with Taiping Island, as tensions remain quite high in the South China Sea. But I think a bigger reason that she won’t go is due to personal safety considerations. If China were to dispatch planes to shadow her flight there, it wouldn’t look good.

Tsai has kept mum on whether she will visit the island. A DPP lawmaker says ulterior motives are behind the KMT’s outspoken support for Tsai to visit.

Chang Hung-lu
DPP lawmaker
What they are actually trying to do is preempt a visit. The situation in the South China Sea now is very different from the situation back during the Chen and Ma administrations. It is far more complex. If Tsai Ing-wen were to travel to Taiping Island, she would just go and then announce the visit after the fact. The KMT going out of its way to bring up the matter is playing into what the CCP wants.

With tensions high in the South China Sea, asserting sovereignty over Taiping Island is a challenge requiring a measured approach.

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國民黨"炒作"蔡總統登太平島? 民進黨指"配合中國作文章"

2024-02-06

太平島碼頭整建工程即將峻工,近期將舉辦啟用典禮,國民黨力促蔡總統登島捍衛主權,但前國安會秘書長蘇起認為,蔡總統九成機率不會去,因為對岸如果派戰鬥機伴飛,會造成安全問題。綠委質疑根本是配合中共作文章,因為南海局勢複雜,就算總統要去,也是去了回來再報告。認為藍營的炒作,就是想讓總統登島破局。

2008年2月初,任期倒數的總統陳水扁搭乘C-130運輸機登上太平島,成了我國史上第一位登島的現任總統。

[[時任總統 陳水扁(2008.2.2)]]
“我們認為南海的未來,應該以環境保護取代主權爭議,堅持以和平方式,解決領土跟管轄權的爭議。”

當時是大選前,正在選總統的馬英九批評陳水扁,已經是看守總統,應該把社會安定、國家安全守護好。只是八年後,換成馬英九即將卸任,類似的場景再度出現。

2016年馬總統,也在卸任前夕,搶登太平島宣示主權,即使當時國際反對,美國AIT還發表措辭嚴厲聲明,批評馬總統登島,對南海平和與解決爭端毫無助益,對馬英九感到失望。

如今八年又過去了,適逢太平島碼頭整修工程即將峻工舉辦啟用典禮,將有百噸巡防艇長駐,馬英九又發聲,支持蔡總統登太平島。立法院副院長江啟臣也發臉書,強調捍衛國家主權不分朝野黨派,支持蔡總統親赴太平島。

[[前國安會秘書長 蘇起]]
“我覺得可能性很小,百分之九十不會去。美國也並不樂見台灣攪到太平島、攪到南海裡面去,南海現在蠻緊張的,可是我認為更大的理由是,蔡英文人身安全的考量,(中國)他派個幾架戰鬥機在那邊伴飛,非常難看。”

日前面對媒體詢問,蔡總統低調不語。但國民黨此時敲鑼打鼓要蔡總統去,民進黨立委認為根本別有用心。

[[立委(民) 張宏陸]]
“就是不想讓台灣的總統到太平島,現在南海的局勢,跟陳水扁總統馬英九總統的時候是不一樣的,現在南海局勢複雜,蔡總統就算去太平島,應該也是去了之後回來再向國人報告。這次國民黨主動提出這樣的議題,根本就是跟中共配合。”

複雜的國際局勢下,我國要捍衛太平島主權,勢必需要有更周全的方案和細膩安排。

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