Taiwan has held a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea as part of efforts to cement its claim to a key island in the strategically vital waterbody.

Eight vessels and three aircraft took part in Tuesday's drill, which simulated a fire aboard a cargo ship that forced crew members to seek safety on Taiping in the Spratly island group.

The official Central News Agency said coast guard and navy ships participated in the exercise.

Taiwan is one of six governments that claim territory in the South China Sea. Coast guard head Lee Chung-wei told journalists on Taiping that Taiwan's sovereignty over the island is "undeniable."

In recent years, Taiwan's chief rival, China, has been aggressively pushing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.