President Tsai attends exhibition commemorating 70th anniversary of recovery of South China Sea Islands
On the morning of December 9, President Tsai Ing-wen proceeded to Academia Historica to attend the opening ceremony of the special exhibition "Sustainable Governance and Enduring Peace: An Exhibition Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Recovery of the South China Sea Islands." In her speech, the president reiterated that the Republic of China (ROC) has sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and their relevant waters, and elaborated on the initial results and progress made on the "four principles" and "five actions" that the ROC government put forth with regard to the South China Sea issue.
Upon arriving, President Tsai watched a video in which Commander of the Nansha Islands Wang Mao-lin introduced the current living situation and facilities on Taiping Island. The president then delivered a speech, the translation of which is as follows:
I am pleased to be here at the inauguration ceremony for the special exhibition "Sustainable Governance and Enduring Peace: An Exhibition Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Recovery of the South China Sea Islands." I see before me the heads of various agencies and distinguished scholars from many fields. We have also invited representatives of the soldiers who once protected Taiping Island. We celebrate this occasion with you, and thank you for all the contributions that you have made.
In recent years, the South China Sea issue has been the subject of intense spotlight, and is highly relevant for the Republic of China's territorial sovereignty and rights over the relevant waters.
This December marks the 70th anniversary of our government's recovery of the South China Sea Islands. On this occasion, the Ministry of the Interior and Academia Historica have organized this special exhibition of artifacts and images not only to commemorate this anniversary, but also to highlight the efforts and contributions our country has made to protect our territories in the South China Sea and safeguard regional peace.
The issues regarding the South China Sea are highly complex, with overlapping claims by the claimants and a large number of states involved. At stake is not only regional security, but also diplomatic relations and the political and economic interests of nations. The ROC government will continue to cooperate and negotiate with all states concerned.
I once again reiterate that the government will staunchly safeguard our country's territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea, and insists upon all legal rights over the relevant waters in accordance with international law and the law of the sea. We will relinquish neither our sovereignty nor the rights that are ours by law.
Taiping Island is not only the sovereign territory of the ROC, it is also an important site for concrete contributions by Taiwan to regional peace and stability. In July of this year (2016) we put forth "four principles" and "five actions" with regard to the South China Sea issue. Let me now elaborate on the initial results and progress we have achieved:
The first action is to safeguard our country's fishing rights. In the past six months, our Coast Guard Administration has stepped up protection of Taiwanese fishermen in the Dongsha (Pratas) and Nansha (Spratly) regions, increased the frequency and duration of patrols in the relevant waters of Taiping Island, and strengthened law enforcement against non-ROC fishing boats that illegally operate in the relevant waters of the South China Sea Islands.
The second action concerns participation in multilateral negotiations. Through various mechanisms for dialogue and on multiple occasions, the government has expressed to the international community our country's position, which is for the parties to "set aside differences and promote joint development." This position has been positively acknowledged by the countries concerned.
The third is to promote scientific cooperation. With Taiping Island as the center, we are working with some states concerned to initiate scientific projects such as monitoring and detection of earthquakes, tsunamis, climate change, and ocean acidification. We are taking concrete actions to advance peace and sustainable development in the South China Sea.
The fourth is to strengthen humanitarian response. Our Coast Guard Administration continues to perform humanitarian rescue in the relevant waters of Taiping Island and Dongsha Island. On November 29 it collaborated with relevant agencies to stage a humanitarian assistance exercise entitled "Operation Nanyuan No. 1", demonstrating to the international community that Taiping Island is fully capable of serving as a base for humanitarian assistance and supply in the South China Sea.
Our fifth action is to continue nurturing and encouraging research talent in the law of the sea, so as to reinforce Taiwan's capacity to respond to international legal issues. Our Ministry of the Interior and other relevant agencies have already organized workshops on the law of the sea, and are actively cultivating specialists on maritime issues.
Looking to the future, Taiwan will continue to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, based on the values of peace, humanitarianism, ecology, and sustainability. At the same time, we are also willing, through negotiations conducted on the basis of equality, to work with all states concerned to advance peace and stability in the South China Sea, and to jointly conserve and develop resources in the region.
Last but not least, I would like to once again thank all those who once stood watch over Taiping Island. Braving all storms and hardship you dedicated yourselves to the protection of our territories in the South China Sea, and for this you are owed the heartfelt gratitude of all Taiwanese people. I thank you all for joining us at this event, and wish great success for this special exhibition. Thank you.
As part of the opening ceremony, President Tsai also placed a video call to Commander Wang to commend the success of the "Operation Nanyuan No. 1" humanitarian assistance exercise. She also inquired into the life and welfare of everyone stationed on the island, and expressed her sincere appreciation and encouragement. Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong presented President Tsai with a national flag and a card signed by the personnel currently stationed on Taiping Island, to highlight the government's position and determination to defend our country's sovereignty in the South China Sea.
President Tsai then toured the three thematic areas of the exhibition –"Historical Developments," "Key to the Southern Territories," and "Sustainable Peace". She learned about successive government's accomplishments in peacefully managing Taiping Island, including measures and projects to promote ecological conservation, humanitarian rescue, and scientific research. The tour also highlighted the unwavering resolve of the government to further sustainable governance and enduring peace in the South China Sea. On display at the exhibition is also a postcard that Minister Yeh sent from Taiping Island to President Tsai in August of this year. The card bears the postmark of the Taiping Island post office, which is deeply meaningful as it symbolizes the sovereignty of our country.
In addition to Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong, also attending the event were National Security Council Advisor Tung Chen-yuan, Academia Historica Director Wu Mi-cha, Minister of the Coast Guard Administration Lee Chung-wei, Deputy Minister of National Defense Lee Hsi-ming, and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Chiu Jeng-jiann.(Courtesy of Office of the President)