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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

County chief wants defense minister's help on Kinmen-Xiamen swim

ROC Central News Agency

2009/05/08 18:10:39

By Deborah Kuo

Kinmen, May 7 (CNA) Kinmen County Magistrate Lee Chu-feng said Friday he wants to meet the defense minister to help solve problems related to a mass swim planned for August from the Taiwan-held island county to the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen.

Lee said he will invite Lt. Gen. Lu Hsiao-rung, chief of the Kinmen Command, to travel with him to Taipei to meet with Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min and seek the minister's support in clearing up Kinmen's beaches to facilitate the swim.

Lu was not available for comment on Lee's invitation. According to a plan jointly worked out by the Kinmen County and Xiamen governments, a total of 100 professional swimmers and celebrities from Taiwan and China will be invited to take part in the swim -- a 5,800-meter challenge from Xiamen's Yefengzhai beach to Little Kinmen's Shuangkou beach.

At a meeting Friday to discuss the swim, Lee and others discussed what to do about military equipment on the beach in Little Kinmen -- a small islet west of Kinmen -- that could be hazardous to swimmers.

The Kinmen County government asked the military to remove the land mines and the spear-like anti-landing barricades on the Shuangkou beach to protect the event's participants.

In response to Lee's request, Gen. Yang Nai-sheng, the Kinmen Command's deputy chief of the general staff, said the Kinmen Command had the authority to clear the 63 land mines on the beach, but needed approval from the Ministry of National Defense to remove the barricades.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 anti-landing barricades have been on the 1,000-meter long Shuangkou beach since the beginning of the Cold War era in the late 1940s to obstruct landing craft and military vessels from China.

Lee said the local government's goal was to remove barricades from about 300 meters of the Shuangkou coastline.

Yang suggested that the swim's organizers have the barricades in the designated area covered and wrapped during the swim and install floating platforms on the beach to give the swimmers a path to walk on without risk of setting off the land mines.

Yang's suggestions were rejected, however, by the organizers, who called them unrealistic.

Kinmen officials said that the county government started planning for the historic Kinmen-Xiamen mass swim only after obtaining approval by the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council.

They said that while the direct distance between Xiamen's Yefengzhai and Little Kinmen's Shuangkou is 5,800 meters, the swimmers may end up swimming 8,500 meters because of the strong currents in that part of the Taiwan Strait.

Lee envisages the swim not only as a sports event but also as another way to promote cross-Strait exchanges, which have improved considerably since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008.

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