TAIPEI Jan 28 Taiwan has completed an airstrip
on the disputed Spratlys, military sources said on Monday, a
move likely to stir anger with China, Vietnam and other
governments that also claim the resource-rich islands.
Taiwan's Ministry of Defence had finished a 1,150-metre
(3,770-ft) runway on Taiping and tested it, the sources said.
They said the strip would be for military or civilian maritime
"It's for movement of vehicles, any kind of vehicles
civilian or military," a ministry spokesman said.
The airstrip will supplement Taiwan coastguard and air
force stations on Taiping, which is the biggest in the Spratly
chain at 489,500 square metres (120 acres) and 1,000 km (620
miles) south of Taiwan.
The Spratly Islands, a string of rocky outcrops in the
South China Sea possibly holding large oil and gas deposits,
are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Last year, the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung
established a green turtle reserve on Taiping in a bid to stop
hunting. All governments, except Brunei, that claim the
Spratlys have now installed facilities there.
Vietnam has protested to Taiwan twice in the last two
months as airstrip construction progressed, Taiwan foreign
ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said.
"We've said all along Taiwan has sovereignty over these
islands," Yeh said. "Any time we make a move, there's a
protest, and Vietnam is particularly assertive."
In 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval battle near
the Spratlys' Johnson Reef, killing more than 70 Vietnamese
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alex