Taiwan staged a cross-agency humanitarian rescue drill in waters around Taiping Island in the South China Sea Tuesday, the first of its kind since President Tsai Ing-wen (???) spoke of her government's intention to turn the island into a base for humanitarian assistance.
Three aircraft and eight vessels took part in the exercise code-named "Nanyuan (Southern Aid) No. 1 (????)", according to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).
CGA Minister Lee Chung-wei (???) was there to inspect the drill, in which reporters from several international wire services and Japanese media outlets were invited to cover, said CGA.
The drill simulated a fire on the deck of a foreign cargo ship, which caused some of the injured crew members to jump ship near Taiping Island.
The National Search and Rescue Center dispatched Navy and CGA vessels to the scene, where they picked up survivors and transported the wounded to the island. Once in the hospital, the injured are treated by medical staff with assistance from their colleagues in Taiwan proper via a video link.
The injured crew members were then transported to a hospital in Pingtung, southern Taiwan, on an Air Force C-130.
The ships that participated in the drill included the Kaohsiung (???), a 3,000-ton Coast Guard vessel and the Panshi (??), a Navy fast combat support ship that can provide medical service on a par with an Army field hospital.
The drill took place following an interview in October in which the president spoke of her government's plans for Taiping Island.
Tsai told Yomiuri Shimbun, a major Japanese daily, that Taiwan had begun to improve facilities on the island with the hope of building it into a base for humanitarian assistance and scientific research. Other countries are welcome to cooperate with Taiwan in this endeavor, she said.
Since CGA took over responsibilty for the Spratly and the Pratas Islands, also known as the Dongsha Islands, to the north from the Marines in 2000, it has assisted 100 people in 70 emergencies in South China Sea waters, the CGA said.
Also known as Itu Aba, Taiping is the largest of the naturally occurring island in the Spratly island chain.
The CGA said that it will continue to step up rescue cooperation with peripheral countries, so as to implement the policy of turning Taiping Island into a humanitarian rescue center and supply and logistics base.
Six countries, including Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, claim sovereignty over parts or all of South China Sea.
Foreign reporters were invited to Taiping Island for the first time in March during the previous Ma Ying-jeou (???) administration to buttress Taiwan's case that it is an "island" and not just a reef under international law.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel