South China Sea crisis: Taiwan deploys soldiers to region as tensions escalate

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According to a Ministry of National Defense (MND) official, a number of Taiwanese marines have been deployed to the region as a training mission. China is reportedly planning large-scale beach landing exercises on the islands.

The source told Focus Taiwan the mission is aimed at strengthening the defence capabilities as well as improving logistical and equipment maintenance skills of the Taiwanese Coast Guard officers.

However, no more information about the number of marines deployed or how long they will stay were revealed.

The move comes after Japan’s Kyodo News reported last month how the People’s Liberation Army of China were planning to hold large-scale beach landings in the area.

It is believed the beach landing trainings are reportedly to simulate the takeover of the Pratas Islands.

These islands are considered to be significant for Beijing as they sit in a strategic crosswords which Chinese warships would have to pass when travel to the Pacific.

Last month, the Communist nation held terrifying simulations in the disputed area.

The drill involved China’s People’s Liberation Army Marine Corps and reportedly demonstrates how the Communist nation’s forces could project power across the contested waters.

The Marine Corps – or PLANMC – undertook an anti-piracy exercise near the Paracel Islands.

The drills showed off the corps capabilities to China’s neighbours at a time where tensions are increasingly growing in the area.

According to reports, the exercise simulated covert, amphibious assaults by the PLANMC and featured fast-moving speedboats as well as naval aviation aircrafts.

Over the last three years, the strength of the PLANMC has nearly tripled in size to more than 35,000 troops according to a report for the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Last month, Taiwanese officials warned of the threat posed by the Chinese air defence identification zone (ADIZ).

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Military news site US Navy Institute (USNI) reported China hinted at an ADIZ over the South China Sea for years.

However, despite other nations declaring ADIZ over regions, experts believe China is not ready to declare a zone over the region.

Since seizing the Paracels in 1974, China has built military installations on the islands.

But the Spratly Islands are further away from mainland China and are all claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

In May, the US Air Force and Marines conducted training exercises in the area with three submarines joining ships and aircraft in the nearby Philippine Sea.

The actions were thought to be a reaction to Chinese harassment of ships drilling for resources in nearby waters.

Back in April, three US ships joined the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta and sailed to the region to demonstrate a commitment to keeping the sea open.

The South China Sea region is a highly disputed territory where it faces rival ownership claims from China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained.

The recent construction of bunkers on some of the atolls points to China preparing to “protection against air or missile strikes”, raising the prospect of a potential conflict, sparking World War 3 fears.

The islands and surrounding reefs have been the subject of a bitter and long-running territorial dispute, with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago.

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