South China Sea Dispute: Taiwanese citizen registered as first civilian resident in Taiping

Two more staff at the medical facility in Taiping may switch residency to Taiping.

A Taiwanese citizen has registered herself as the first resident of the Spratlys island chain in the disputed South China Sea.

Chu Mei-ling, who serves as a nurse at the medical facility on the Itu Aba island, which Taiwan calls Taiping, transferred her household registration from Kaohsiung to Taiping.

"I want to declare Taiwan's sovereignty. Taiping Island belongs to Taiwan," AsiaOne quoted her saying. Her announcement coincided with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's controversial travel to Taiping island.

The Taiwanese coast guard said as of January 21, Chu is a registered resident of Kaohisung Cijin District's Nansha No. 1, the only address on Taiping Island, which at 46 hectares is the largest natural island in the Spratlys.

Many countries in the region claim sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracel island chains in the South China sea. China's vigorous building of seven man-made islands near the Spratly archipelago and drilling activities in the region have sparked tension in recent years.

Chu says she was inspired by patriotic sentiments after the territorial dispute heated up and wanted to "let the international community know that Taiping Island belongs to its residents." She says she is not motivated by any incentives or benefits.

President Ma was "surprised" when she told him about the residence change and thanked her, the report said.

The medical facility in Taiping has two more staff and they too were likely to change residence to Taiping, Chu said.

Most of the 180 people living in the island are Taiwanese coastguard personnel.