A Taiwan Navy helmsman lines up the sights on his compass during exercises in the waters off Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
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Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's planned trip to the Taiwanese-held island of Itu Aba in the disputed South China Sea is "extremely unhelpful" and won't do anything to resolve disputes over the waterway, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.Ma's office earlier announced that the president, who steps down in May, would fly to Itu Aba on Thursday to offer Chinese New Year wishes to residents on the island, mainly Taiwanese coastguard personnel and environmental scholars.But Ma's one-day visit to Itu Aba, known as Taiping in Taiwan, comes amid growing international concern over rising tensions in the waterway and quickly drew the ire of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.Both Taiwan and China claim most of the South China Sea.Asked to comment on Ma's planned visit, the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated that China and Taiwan had a common duty to protect Chinese sovereignty in the waterway.It has appeared unfazed by Taiwan's upgrading work on Itu Aba.
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