THE Taiwan Economic and Culture Office (TECO) Representative to the Philippines has denied that Taipei has constructed a military facility in the disputed Itu Aba in the South China Sea.
TECO Representative Dr. Gary Song Huann Lin said the satellite images that have been shown by Google is a civilian facility which is being used for humanitarian assistance, search and rescue and disaster relief.
“We don’t have military facility in Itu Aba,” Lin said.
He explained “the facility is for humanitarian search and rescue operations and marine research clinic. We only station coast guard there.”
Lin stressed Taiwan wants South China Sea to be a peaceful sea, and it should not be a flashpoint for regional conflict or rivalry.
This, the Representative said is the reason why Taiwan is “pushing for dialogue” to resolve peacefully the dispute in the contested waters in the SCS.
Taiwan’s defense ministry earlier had asked Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei’s sole holding in the disputed South China Sea.
The revelation of new military-related construction is expected to raise tensions in the disputed territory, where China’s building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants.
The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates.
“Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities,” Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi has said.
The United States has urged against the militarization of the South China Sea, after China reclaimed several disputed reefs and constructed air strips and port facilities.
China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts or all of the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade passes.
In July, an international court ruled against China in a case brought by the Philippines that rejected China’s claim to a vast swathe of the disputed maritime area. Both China and Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, vehemently rejected the court ruling.