• Kyodo

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Taiwanese legislators arrived Wednesday on a South China Sea island that Taiwan administers to assert sovereignty after an international tribunal ruled last week that the island is legally only a “rock.”

Democratic Progressive Party legislators Lo Chih-cheng and Wang Ding-yu, both members of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, wrote on their Facebook pages that they and six other lawmakers embarked on a day trip to Taiping Island early in the morning.

Taiping Island, or Itu Aba, is the largest naturally formed feature in the Spratly Archipelago and is located some 1,600 km south of Taiwan. The flight to the island takes about four hours.

The move came after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled July 12 that China’s blanket claim to much of the South China Sea has no legal basis and defined the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island and all other high-tide features in the Spratly chain as “rocks.”

Taiwan called the ruling “unacceptable” and said it is “not legally binding on Taiwan” because Taiwan was never invited to the hearing as a concerned party or consulted in the arbitration process.

The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen has sent a 1,000-ton coast guard cutter to the area to replace another one dispatched there. A navy vessel was also sent to Taiping.

Criticizing the Tsai administration for being too “weak” in responding to the ruling, Nationalist Party legislator Johnny Chiang requested that the Defense Ministry arrange the visit to Taiping Island.

Besides legislators, fishermen in southern Taiwan are also organizing a trip to visit the island Wednesday.

In addition to Taiwan and China, the disputes over islands and reefs in the South China Sea also involve Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

The tribunal hearing in The Hague was instigated by the Philippines due to its disputes with China, which has undertaken massive land reclamation activities on a number of reefs and islands in the South China Sea.

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