Itu Aba/Taiping Island is the largest naturally-formed feature in the disputed Spratly Islands and the only one occupied by the Republic of China (Taiwan). Its legal status has become a topic of heated debate as the Philippines has argued before an arbitral tribunal at The Hague that Itu Aba cannot sustain human habitation or independent economic life and is therefore legally a rock, not an island as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This would entitle Itu Aba to only a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, not an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. The government in Taipei insists that Itu Aba has all the necessities for human habitation, including fresh water and local food production, and sought to highlight that during a December 12 visit to the island by Interior Minister Chen Wei-zen.

Below are photos provided by the government of the Republic of China detailing Chen’s visit to preside over a ceremony marking the completion of renovations to the island’s wharf and lighthouse.

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About AMTI Leadership

Dr. Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Executive Advisor to AMTI. Gregory Poling is Director of AMTI and Fellow with the Asia Program at CSIS. Learn more about the core AMTI leadership.