Native name: Tàipíng Dǎo (太平島)
Other names: Itu Aba, Ligaw, Ligao, Đảo Ba Bình, Huángshānmǎ Jiāo (黃山馬礁), Huángshānmǎ Zhì (黃山馬峙), Nagashima (長島)
|International Space Station photograph of Taiping Island (left) and Zhongzhou Reef (right)|
|Location||South China Sea|
|Length||1,400 metres (4,600 ft)|
|Width||400 metres (1,300 ft)|
|Republic of China (Taiwan)|
|People's Republic of China|
|District||Truong Sa, Khanh Hoa|
|Part of a series on the|
Spratly Islands military occupations map
Taiping Island is the largest of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and the only one where fresh water is available. The island is elliptical in shape being 1.4 km in length and 0.4 km in width. It is part of the Tizard Bank (Zheng He Reefs; 鄭和群礁), one of seven reefs in the Spratly Islands near the centre of the South China Sea. The Taiping Island Airport is the most prominent artificial feature on the island.
The island is administered by the Republic of China (Taiwan), as part of Cijin, Kaohsiung. It is also claimed by the People's Republic of China, the Philippines and Vietnam. The distance from Kaohsiung to Taiping Island is about 1,600 km (990 mi). The nearby Zhongzhou Reef is also under the possession of the ROC.
Taiping Island (Chinese: 太平島; pinyin: Tàipíng Dǎo; literally "peace island") is named in honor of a Nationalist Chinese Navy warship which sailed to the island in 1946, which allowed China to assert a claim to the Spratly Islands in 1947. This name is favored by both Taipei and by Beijing. The island was previously called Huángshānmǎ Jiāo (黃山馬礁) or Huángshānmǎ Zhì (黃山馬峙) by Chinese fishermen.
One of the names used in English is Itu Aba Island, which has three different origins: one from the Malay for "What's that?" (spelled itu apa in the current orthography); or from Hainanese of Huángshānmǎ (黃山馬) - Widuabe. A folk etymology claims that the island was named after two Vietnamese maids (Tu and Ba) of a French Indochina official charged with mapping the Spratly Islands.
The island was claimed by the French as part of French Indochina in 1887. They occupied it in 1932 to assert control, and in reaction to a 1932 protest by the Chinese of their sovereignty of the Paracels. During World War II, it was invaded by Japan and converted to a submarine base. It was administratively attached to the municipality of Takao (Kaohsiung) in the Japanese colony of Taiwan.
On 6 November 1946, the ROC government sent four warships to the South China Sea to secure islands within the region, commanded by Lin Zun and Yao Ruyu (姚汝鈺): ROCS Chung-Yeh (中業號), ROCS Yung-hsing (永興號), ROCS Tai-ping (太平號) and ROCS Chung-chien (中建號). The warships departed from Guangzhou and headed towards the Spratly and Paracel island groups. On 12 December the two ships led by Lin Zun, ROCS Tai-ping and ROCS Chung-Yeh, arrived at Taiping Island. In commemoration of the island being secured, the island was chosen to be named after the ROCS Tai-ping warship, and thus a stone stele reading "Taiping island" was erected on a breakwater tip southwest of the island. The other three ships likewise had their names used in the renaming of Yongxing (Yung-hsing) Island (presently PRC-occupied), Zhongjian (Chung-chien) Island (presently PRC-occupied) and Zhongye (Chung-Yeh) Island (presently Philippines-occupied).
After being secured by Nationalist China, the island was placed under the administration of China's Guangdong Province. When the Chinese Communists gained control of mainland China, the defeated Nationalists retreated to Taiwan, but retained control of the Taiping garrison. Japan officially renounced its control and transferred the island to the trusteeship of the Allied Powers within the San Francisco Peace Treaty on September 8, 1951.
In 1952, a Philippine civilian began to mine sulfur from Taiping Island and that same year, a note attached to the Treaty of Taipei provided the Nationalist Chinese arguments for sovereignty over the island. The Nationalists established a permanent presence on the island in July 1956.
Since the 1970s, Beijing has emphasized that its claim is in solidarity with that of Taiwan. "For years, the Taiwan authority has maintained a military garrison on Taiping Island, the biggest among the Nansha Islands," according to a report issued by the Chinese foreign ministry in 1980.
From 2000 a detachment of the ROC Coast Guard Administration was stationed at this island, replacing the Marine Corps detachment. The Taiping Island Airport was completed in December 2007, and a C-130 Hercules transporter airplane first landed on the island on 21 January 2008.
On 2 February 2008, ROC president Chen Shui-bian personally visited the island accompanied by a significant naval force including two fleets with Kidd class destroyer flagships and two submarines. On 19 April 2011, it was announced that the Marine Corps will be stationed once again on Taiping Island.
In February 2012, the ROC began construction of an antenna tower and associated facilities with the purpose of providing navigation assistance for aircraft landing. The tower will have a height of approximately 7 to 8 metres, and is scheduled to be completed in April 2012, and fully functional after proper testing in September 2012. In July 2012, ROC authorities revealed a project which intends on extending the runway of the island airbase by 500 metres, which would allow the island to facilitate various kinds of military aircraft.
In late August 2013, the ROC government announced that it would spend US$112 million on upgrading the island's airstrip, and constructing a dock capable allowing its 3,000-ton Coast Guard cutters to dock, due to be completed by 2016.
Government and politics
The island, along with the rest of the Spratlys, is disputed by four countries on historical, geographic or technical grounds, as well as due to fishing rights, shipping lanes, and the potential of petroleum and natural gas beneath the South China Sea.
Although it has been found that the South China Sea basin is abundant in oil and natural gas, the waters surrounding Taiping Island have yet to be formally surveyed or extracted. KMT legislator Lin Yu-fang has stated that the Chinese Petroleum Corporation has not excluded the option of prospecting territorial waters in the near future, with the military providing naval escort assistance upon directive from the National Security Council of the Republic of China.
Although there are no long term inhabitants on the island, Taiping Island is administered under the Municipality of Kaohsiung City, Qijin District, by the Republic of China. Postal service is provided by Chunghwa Post under the assigned area code "819". The Republic of China military postal service uses the designation "68局" for postage services for the island.
Land pricing is managed by the Kaohsiung local government, although there have been no cases of actual transactions being made. In 2007, the announced land value adjustments placed the value of land on Taiping Island at NT$400 per square metre.
Prior to 2012, the island's coast guard defense forces held 106mm recoilless guns and 81mm mortars. These are to be replaced by eight sets of 40mm autocannons and a number of 120mm mortars by the end of August 2012.
There is plentiful freshwater on the island; however, many naturally occurring wells contain chloride salts. There are a few wells on the eastern side of the island with acceptable quality freshwater, whilst the rest are not suitable for drinking. In the 1980s, the Republic of China (ROC) Ministry of National Defense drilled various wells 600 metres deep throughout the island. In 1992, a water catchment, reservoirs and other facilities were constructed. In 1993, two complete desalination machines were placed on the island, which operate for four hours each day, generating approximately 6,000 gallons of fresh water.
Facilities on the island are powered mainly by five 200 kW diesel generators; all fuel is shipped from Taiwan island. In December 2001, solar energy devices of 20.3 kW capacity were erected as backup power.
There is a shelter for fishermen, hospital, weather stations, satellite telecommunications facilities, radar surveillance and other communications equipment located on the island.
There are five public telephones on the island, which are connected via satellite communications. There is also internet connectivity on the island.
Mobile phone reception is available for individuals with international roaming; a signal from Vietnam Military Electronics and Telecommunications (Viettel Mobile) reaches the island from a GSM base station on Namyit Island currently controlled by Vietnam, and a signal from China Mobile can be accessed from a GSM base station located on Nanxun Reef controlled by the PRC. Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom is evaluating the feasibility of building a satellite-based cellular base stations on the island to provide the coast guard with communication services.
Bridge piers were constructed in 1992, but are damaged and have yet to be repaired. Since there are many reefs around the island and the surrounding water is too shallow, transportation and supply vessels are unable to dock with the island itself. Supplies are loaded and unloaded by raft and taken to and from shore from an anchorage about 1.2 nautical miles away from the island. Supplies are transferred with a safety load of 10 tons, and there is a high degree of difficulty due to the risk of large waves; rubber rafts carrying supplies and maintenance require time-consuming and difficult manual handling.
Three ROC Coast Guard boats of the M8 model, designated Nanhai 4, Nanhai 5 and Nanhai 6 (Chinese: 南海四號,南海五號,南海六號, "Nanhai" literally translates to "South Sea" or "South China Sea") are prepared to patrol the island but are not considered sufficient to adequately monitor the island's surroundings. In December 2006, rebuilding began on a damaged L-shaped pier, the Southern Star Ferry Pier (Chinese: 南星碼頭), in order to improve the transportation and supply of materials for the Coast Guard. Currently, a military supply ship services the island during a single voyage in April and November each year, anchoring for one day to deliver personnel and military supplies. Additionally, a civil merchantman arrives with general goods every 20 days, anchoring for 1 to 2 days at a time. This ship may be used as a transport for stationed personnel.
The island has a helicopter platform that is not used frequently. The Taiping Island Airport features a take-off and landing airstrip caters for C-130 transport planes of the ROC Air Force, with one sortie arriving every two months. The runway on the island is 1200 metres long, 30 metres wide, and can accommodate two C-130 aircraft; there are plans to expand the runway in the future.
The ROC Central Weather Bureau has employee presence on the island. The total population of the island is about 600 with no civilians.
The flora and fauna present on the island include swallows, papaya plant, coast oak, terminalia trees, lotus leaf tung tree, goodeniaceae, sea lemon, long stem chrysanthemum, long-saddle rattan, gray grass, coconut tree, banana tree, White-tailed Tropical Bird, Sparrow hawk, tropical fish, jellyfish and other various organisms.
Geology and landform
The island has a long and narrow shape that is low and flat, that is approximately 1289.3m long and 365.7m wide. The area of the north-south coastline is 41.3 hectares, and the coastal vegetation line range is 36.6 hectares. The mean tide water over land area is approximately 0.49 square km, and during low sea tides the water reefs and land area is 0.98 square km, 4-6m above sea level.
Since Taiping island is a coral island, the surface includes fine sand and coral reefs formed by weathering. Around the island are sandy beaches, with narrower beaches on the south and north sides 5 metres wide, on the east side 20 metres wide, and in the southwest side 50 metres wide. The sand accumulated on the beach is rosy coloured, mainly formed from red coral fragments and shell debris.
The island has historically been mined for phosphates to the point of exhaustion, and today has no major natural resources. There is a large number of discovered reserves of oil and natural gas beneath surrounding waters within the South China Sea Basin, however there has yet to be formal exploration and mining conducted.
Taiping Island has a tropical climate, with the temperature averaging between 21 to 35 degrees Celsius. There is a strong southwest monsoon in summer months in June and July, with strong southwest wind and currents, and during the time typhoons become frequent there is abundant rainfall. The rainy season occurs during November and December.
A temple on the island exists as a common visiting place. The southeast side of the island contains old Japanese constructions. The "Taiping Cultural Park" (Chinese: 太平文化公園) is located near the pier. There is also a pillar erected on the island that declares Taiping Island as a territory of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- Taiping Island Airport
- Zhongzhou Reef
- Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands)
- South China Sea Islands
- List of islands of the Republic of China
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- Soong, Grace, "Taiping Island camp shows sovereignty: Ma", The China Post, July 19, 2011.
- Zhu Xianlong, "Commentary: Taiwan Independence No Easy Thing", People's Daily Online, August 14, 2002.
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- "Spratly Islands". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.
- Severino, Rodolfo, Where in the World Is the Philippines?: Debating Its National Territory, 2011, p. 79, ISDN: 9789814311700.
- Chi-Kin Lo, Zijian Lu, China's Policy Towards Territorial Disputes: The Case of the South China Sea Islands, Routledge, 1989, p. 37. ISDN: 0415009278.
- "MND admits strategic value of Spratly airstrip." Taipei Times. 6 January 2006. p. 2
- Shih Hsiu-chuan, Hsu Shao-hsuan, and Jimmy Chuang. "President visits disputed islands." Taipei Times. 3 February 2008. p. 1.
- Cindy Sui, 19 April 2011, Taiwan to boost forces in disputed Spratly Islands, BBC News
- 6 February 2012, 太平島 將建助導航塔, Liberty Times
- July 15, 2012, Taiwan mulls extending runway in Spratlys: report, The West Australian
- 2013-09-02, Taiwan Plans New Infrastructure for Disputed South China Sea Claim, Voice of America
- 蕭照平, 3 May 2012, 太平島勘油軍艦護航？國防部：跟海巡署協調, China Times
- Joseph Yeh, 25 July 2012, Cannons and mortars to be deployed on Taiping in South China Sea: MND, The China Post (Taiwan)
- Satellite image of Taiping Island by Google Maps
- Putative States in the Spratly Archipelago
- Ecological Resources
- Itu Aba