China warns Taiwan against expanding airstrip on disputed South China Sea island

China warns Taiwan against expanding airstrip on disputed South China Sea island

China has warned Taiwan against its plan to develop an airstrip on a disputed South China Sea island, saying it was playing with fire. The island was planning to extend the runway on the contested Taiping Island, according to local Taiwanese media.

The alleged plan is to extend the existing 1,150 meter long airstrip by 350 meters so that it can be able to accommodate F 16 jet fighters and P- 3 C anti-submarine aircraft, according to Radio Free Asia. The plan is said to have the consent of the U.S. forces.

Taiping, locally known as Itu Aba, is the biggest natural feature in the disputed Spratly islands. Taiping Island is currently administered by Taiwan, but it is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The report said that the landing of F-16 fighter jets requires a runway of about 1,000 meters, and the landing of P- 3 C anti-submarine aircraft requires a runway of 975 meters. If the runway at Taiping Island is extended to 1,500 meters, existing fighters can take off and land.

The Taiwanese Air Force Command refused to confirm the development plans, saying that the Taiping Island runway is normally operating and the relevant statement is purely speculation, the report has angered Beijing.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office, issued a sharp statement against the move, warning Taipei of playing with fire. Any attempt to collude with external forces and betray the interests of the Chinese nation is playing with fire and will surely be punished by both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Ma was quoted by the state-owned China News Service CNS. It will be rejected by the people and punished by history, he said.

Ma stated that the Nansha Islands Spratly Islands, including Taiping Island, are China's inherent territory, and China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters. Taipei immediately responded to China's threat, saying that the islands in the South China Sea belong to Taiwan. Although Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the alleged plans, the East Asian nation reiterated its determination to defend the sovereignty of the islands in the South China Sea.

The island, officially considered as a rock under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is named after the warship Taiping that China sent to take over the island after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II.