Taiwan fishermen set sail for disputed South China Sea ‘island’

Five Taiwanese fishing boats set sail for Taiwan's sole holding in the South China Sea on Wednesday in protest against a court ruling that deems it a rock rather than an island, limiting its rights to surrounding resource-rich waters.

Festooned with Taiwanese flags, the fishing boats, loaded with eggs and instant noodles, left the south coast for a week-long trip to Itu Aba, about 1600 kilometres away.

The Chinese government has issued a white paper saying it will not recognise or enforce an international ruling on disputed territories in the South China Sea. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.

The move is largely symbolic as Taiwan has occupied Itu Aba, which it calls Taiping, for decades.

Taiwan refuses to recognise last week's ruling in a case lodged by the Philippines at The Hague, which denies China's vast claims to the South China Sea.

Taiwan, formally known as the "Republic of China" and deemed by China a renegade province, is also a claimant in the South China Sea. One of its objections to The Hague ruling was that the Republic of China was not referred to correctly in the text.

"In the text of the award, the ROC is referred to as 'Taiwan Authority of China'," it said in an official response. "This inappropriate designation is demeaning to the status of the ROC as a sovereign state."

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Taiwan also objected to the Hague court "[taking] it upon itself to expand its authority" in ruling on Itu Aba.

The maps China bases its claims on date to when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists ruled China before they fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war to Mao Zedong's Communists.

The Philippines argued that no feature in the disputed Spratly Islands could be legally considered islands because they lack the ability to sustain human habitation or economic life.

"This is to protest the demotion of Taiping from an island to a rock and zoning the waters to the Philippines," Lo Chiang-fei, spokesman for the expedition, told reporters.

"When they get there, they will land, get fresh water to show this place can sustain human life and bring it back."

Nearly 200 marine-trained coast guard personnel are stationed on Itu Aba.

The Hague court's ruling, under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, gave Itu Aba only 12 nautical miles of territorial waters. Only islands that can sustain human habitation are allowed a greater 200 nautical miles of "exclusive economic zone".

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $US5 trillion of trade moves annually. Along with Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rival claims.

Source: The Age

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