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Lawmakers oppose plan to withdraw forces from Kinmen islets (update)

ROC Central News Agency

2013/10/02 18:49:26

Taipei, Oct. 2 (CNA) Several lawmakers voiced concerns Wednesday over a plan approved by the Cabinet that could see military personnel withdrawn from two islets in outlying Kinmen County so that they can be made into tourist destinations.

The Cabinet approved in mid-September a plan for the Ministry of National Defense to hand over control of Dadan and Erdan, two of 12 islets surrounding the main island of Kinmen, to the Kinmen county government.

The plan will leave the two islets, close to southern China, to the joint management of the National Police Agency, the Coast Guard Administration and the Kinmen county government, a Cabinet official said recently.

During a legislative committee session on Wednesday however, lawmakers passed a proposal that while the two islets can be partly opened to tourism to boost the local economy, some military personnel will remain posted there.

The proposal was put forward by Lin Yu-fang and Yang Ying-hsiung, both of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT).

Noting the historical significance attached to the islets, Lin said during the session that he opposes a full military withdrawal from the two islets.

They are military outposts where the Republic of China government recorded significant victories in fending off invasion by the Chinese military after it relocated to Taiwan after losing the civil war in China in 1949, Lin said.

"Only a defeated armed forces would pull back," he added.

The military needs to continue to be stationed on the islets for "a symbolic meaning" representing a message to "possible enemies" that Taiwan is determined to safeguard its territory, Lin said.

In response, Defense Minister Yen Ming, who attended the legislative committee session for the first time after taking up his post in August, said the plan has already been approved by the Cabinet.

The ministry will take advice from lawmakers as reference, he said, but he was silent on possible changes that were reported in the local media earlier in the day.

The original plan would see the ministry fully withdraw from Dadan and Erdan next year, but now part of the plan has been revised so that some military personnel will remain posted on the islets, which will be only partly opened for tourism, local newspapers reported.

Other lawmakers concerned about the issue included Yang, elected from Kinmen, and Chiu Yi-ying of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

The military cannot fully withdraw from the islets, which are important to national defense, according to Yang, although he said the islets could be opened for limited tourism.

There have been garrisons on the main islands of Kinmen since the late 1940s.

No civilians currently live on Dadan and Erdan, which lie only about 4 kilometers from Xiamen on China's southeastern coast and served as two frontline military outposts following the Kuomintang's retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Dadan and Erdan have areas of 0.79 and 0.28 square kilometers, respectively.

(By Elaine Hou)



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