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Taiwan is set to start oil exploration efforts in waters off Itu Aba
Island, also known as Taiping Island, in a move that could raise tensions with several countries, including China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
During a meeting at the legislature in Taipei on December 26, Bureau of Energy officials confirmed that the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Bureau of Mines, in cooperation with CPC Corp, Taiwan, plan to send ships to waters near Itu Aba to carry out exploration for potential oil resources in 2013.
According to reports, Bureau of Energy Director-General Jerry Ou told the Foreign Affairs and National Defence Committee that a monthly budget of NT$17 million (US$583,670) would be allocated to fund the efforts.
Ou explained that the country's dependency on imports as its main oil supply forces the government to diversify its energy sources.
The South China Sea is believed to contain important oil and gas resources. Taiwan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all lay claim to parts of the area.
Administered by Taiwan, Itu Aba is the largest islet in the disputed Spratly Islands, also Nansha Islands. It lies about 1,400 kilometres from Greater Kaohsiung.