Administered by Taiwan, the islands are 10 km from mainland China and almost 200 km from Taiwan. For local councillors they are not defensible. A police force should replace soldiers in order to turn the area into a demilitarised zone where the two sides can talk.
Taipei (AsiaNews) – Two groups of councillors from Kinmen County, one cross-party and one non-partisan, are calling for the withdrawal of Taiwanese troops from their islands, which are just across from mainland China
In a broader effort to promote peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, the islands would become a demilitarised zone.
As reported by Focus Taiwan, the two newly created political alliances want the central government in Taipei to heed the concerns of the local population, which feels threatened by a possible attack from the mainland as tensions rise between China and Taiwan’s current, US-backed government of President Tsai Ing-wen.
Administered by Taiwan, Kinmen is located 10 kilometres from Xiamen, in the Chinese province of Fujian, 187 kilometres from the island of Taiwan.
In the 1950s, it was the scene of two major crises and was heavy shelled by communist China. At the height of the tensions, the county was home to 120,000 troops. Now 2,000 are deployed.
For the promoters of the demilitarisation initiative, troops currently stationed are too few to face a possible Chinese attack, but are seen as a provocation by Beijing, which considers Taiwan a rebel province to be taken, by force if necessary.
According to Shih Ming-te, former chairman of Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, Taipei should also withdraw its troops from the Matsu Islands, which are also closer to mainland China than to the island of Taiwan.
Kinmen's counsellors suggest replacing troops with police and coast guard forces. They also ask to turn the area into a place where the two parties can meet for talks.
In order to promote local economic development, the two political groups envisage building a bridge to Xiamen and developing a special economic zone with the Chinese city.
All these initiatives require peaceful relations between Beijing and Taipei. However, Fujian is heavily militarised, and the reunification of Taiwan remains one of Chinese President Xi Jinping's primary objectives.
Meanwhile, the Tsai administration is boosting Taiwan’s defences. Today it announced that it signed a US$ 85.3 million maintenance agreement with the United States for its F-16 fighter jets.