Jonathan Spangler is director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. He says Taiwan has been trying to position itself as a peacemaker in the South China Sea dispute for many years.

“Humanitarian and search-and-rescue operations near Itu Aba would be a logical next step in backing up that political rhetoric with action,” he said.

Taiwan launched efforts in 2015 to establish itself as a humanitarian player in the South China Sea. At that time, the government released a peace proposal intended to help resolve South China Sea disputes. It urged governments involved to put aside their “sovereignty disputes” and find ways to develop the sea’s resources together.