Last week, The South China Morning Post reported that Taiwan has sent 200 marines to the Pratas Islands (or Dongsha Islands) amid reports of China simulating a takeover of the islands. The Pratas is located in the South China Sea about 275 miles from Taiwan’s coast, and about 180 miles from the Chinese mainland.
“The marines left for the Pratas about a week ago and will remain there on a short-term rather than a long-term basis,” an anonymous Taiwanese military source told the Post.
In May, Japan’s Kyodo News reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army planned on conducting exercises that include a simulated takeover of Taiwanese-controlled islands like the Pratas. Taiwan also controls Taiping Island, a feature in the Spratly Islands, another disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea has turned into a major flashpoint in US-China relations. The Trump administration recently formally rejected most of China’s claims to the waters. The US has increased its military presence in the region, holding massive Navy exercises in the South China Sea in July with two aircraft carrier strike groups. July also saw a record number of US military surveillance flights near China’s coast.