Since the South China Sea is widely regarded as one of the world’s potential flashpoints in the year to come, it is reassuring to see a number of regional peace initiatives.
Recently, Taiwanese Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen led a group of officials to Itu Aba Island (Taiping), the largest of the disputed Spratly Islands. Chen presided over the opening ceremonies for a renovated wharf and new lighthouse, and the unveiling of a memorial tablet. This naturally formed island, inhabited by a few hundred coast guards, includes a farm, a hospital, a Buddhist temple and facilities that can be used for humanitarian rescue efforts at sea. Historically, the island was used as a weather station by the French and as a naval base by Japan. It has been under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since troops landed there in 1956. But it is also claimed by China, Vietnam and the Philippines.