Taiwan to Start Oil Exploration in S China Sea
Taiwan will launch oil exploration efforts in waters off Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) next year, in a move that is likely to raise tensions with other claimants to a series of islets in the South China Sea.
During a meeting at the legislature in Taipei yesterday, Bureau of Energy officials confirmed that the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油), would send ships to waters near Itu Aba to conduct exploration for potential oil resources next year.
Bureau of Energy Director-General Jerry Ou (歐嘉瑞) told the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that a monthly budget of NT$17 million (US$583,670) would be allocated to fund the efforts.
Ou said that as Taiwan is almost entirely dependent on imports for its oil supply, it was imperative for the nation to diversify its energy sources.
Though unproven, the South China Sea is believed to contain important oil and gas resources. Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all lay claim to parts of the area.
Administered by Taiwan, Itu Aba is the largest islet in the disputed Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島). It lies about 1,400km from Greater Kaohsiung.
In 2008, Taiwan finished constrcution of a 1,150m airstrip on the island. Earlier this year, the Coast Guard Administration — which is mandated with defending sovereignty over the island — augmented its equipment on Itu Aba with a supply of T63 120mm mortar systems and L/60 40mm anti-aircraft guns, sparking protests among other claimants, including Vietnam and the Philippines.