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Exhibition on 70th anniversary of recovery of South China Sea Islands opens in Taipei

The Ministry of the Interior, in conjunction with Academia Historica, opened Sustainable Governance and Enduring Peace: An Exhibition on the 70th Anniversary of the Recovery of the South China Sea Islands December 9 at Academia Historica. The exhibit aims at helping more citizens understand the history of Taiping Island as well as associated administrative measures taken by the government and the importance it attaches to South China Sea issues.

At the opening ceremony, President Tsai Ing-wen first expressed her appreciation to all of those who had ever been stationed on Taiping Island. The President then held a videoconference with Coast Guard Nansha Islands Commander Col. Wang Mao-lin, during which she affirmed the hard work and sacrifices of all those currently stationed on the island.

In her remarks, the President stated that the ROC has sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and enjoys all rights over their relevant waters. Not only is Taiping Island national territory, she continued, it is an important location for Taiwan to make concrete contributions to regional peace and stability. In July, the government announced four principles and five measures for addressing South China Sea issues, with initial results and progress already apparent. Moving forward, Taiwan will adhere to the values of peace, humanitarian aid, and ecological sustainability as it works to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight. The nation is willing to engage in consultations with related countries on an equal basis to promote peace and stability in the South China Sea while jointly preserving and developing resources located therein.

Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong said Taiping Island is situated in a very special location in the South China Sea. The past 70 years have seen many changes both in the international situation as well as on Taiping Island, he continued. On the legal front, for example, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea did not exist 70 years ago, but today is a key pillar of international law governing the seas. As concerns the natural environment, in addition to maintaining the original diverse natural features of Taiping Island, challenges arising from climate change, rising sea levels, and atmospheric circulation are testing the government’s wisdom on how to administer this precious part of national territory. The exhibition also further demonstrates how relevant government agencies have implemented President Tsai’s July 19 policy directions on the South China Sea by adopting measures and plans concerning ecological conservation, humanitarian aid and rescue, scientific research, and climate change. This evinces the government’s plans, blueprints, and goals with regard to Taiping Island.

Minister Yeh presented the President with a national flag that had flown over Taiping Island, as well as a card signed by all those stationed on it. Following this, President Tsai placed a video call to Commander Wang to thank personnel on the island for their efforts in safeguarding the nation’s frontiers.

The exhibit focuses on three themes: “Historical Developments,” “Key to the Southern Territories,” and “Sustainable Peace.” The chronological presentation displays the government’s important policy decisions and history of governance in recovering the South China Sea Islands. Also featured are the natural beauty and cultural aspects of Taiping Island, as well as the achievements made under the government’s peaceful governance over the island—past, present, and future.

Certain aspects of the exhibition are worthy of particular note. Among them are two framed maps found in 2015 when staff at the MOI library were going through its collections. Of these, one is a map featuring the pencil markings of Mr. Zheng Zi-yue, an MOI official who traveled with the ROC Navy to take formal recovery of the South China Sea Islands in 1946. This map bears Mr. Zheng’s seal. Time had done its damage to this artifact and it was sent to experts for repair. Another noteworthy piece is a satellite image of Taiping Island shrunk and transformed into a floor mat, so that exhibition visitors can have a taste of what it is like to be on the island. Other historical documents are displayed as messages in bottles. This is a recollection in physical form of all the government has done regarding the South China Sea, returned as it were across the mists of time for the people of today to appreciate.

December 12 will mark 70 years since the ROCS Taiping and ROCS Chungyeh arrived at Taiping Island. To commemorate this momentous occasion, special tours of the exhibit led by experts are scheduled for that day at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. The first 300 visitors participating in these tours will receive a set of commemorative Taiping Island postcards bearing an imprint of the 70th anniversary. The exhibit runs through December 19 and is free to the public.

In addition to the President, present at the opening ceremony were National Security Council Advisor Tung Chen-yuan, Academia Historica Director Wu Mi-cha, Deputy Minister of National Defense Lee Hsi-ming, Coast Guard Administration Minister Lee Chung-wei, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Chiu Jeng-jiann, and representatives of other relevant ministries. As an expression of the government’s gratitude, personnel formerly stationed on Taiping Island and their relatives, as well as scientists who have done research related to the South China Sea, were also invited to the ceremony.

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