Taiwan coast guard launches new ships as South China Sea tensions rise


KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan – Taiwan’s coast guard on Saturday commissioned its biggest ships for duty in the form of two 3,000-ton patrol vessels, as the island boosts defenses amid concerns about China’s growing footprint in the disputed South China Sea.

The new vessels will be able to dock at a new port being constructed on Taiping Island, the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, before the end of this year.

Taiwan’s coast guard has had direct oversight of the 46-ha (114-acre) island, also known as Itu Aba, since 2000.

“Taiping Island’s defense capabilities will not be weak,” said Wang Chung-yi, minister of the Coast Guard Administration, referring to recent upgrading done on the 1,200-meter (yards) long airstrip on Taiping and the building of a new port, which he said could be completed as early as October this year.

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