Sat, Aug 27, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Matsu frets over reduction plan

MILITARY RESTRUCTURING Officials from the outlying island visited Lienchiang County Commissioner Chen Shui-sheng to complain about the withdrawal of troops

CNA , TAIPEI

Residents of Matsu (馬祖) are concerned about a Ministry of National Defense (MND) plan to cut the number of troops stationed on the outlying island to less than 5,000 by 2008, local government sources said yesterday.

The planned cut is part of the MND's second-stage military restructuring project aimed at establishing an elite deterrent force in the face of China's threat.

According to the MND's newly sanctioned restructuring plan, the total number of military personnel stationed on the three outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu will be trimmed to about 10,000 by 2008.

Opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsao Erh-chung (曹爾忠) from the Matsu constituency has on many occasions voiced his opposition to any plan for major troop cuts on Matsu which lies closer to China's southeastern province of Fujian than to Taiwan proper.

"Unless China renounces the option of using force against Taiwan, we should not unilaterally disarm ourselves. Without adequate defense deployment, Matsu's security will be at stake," Tsao said.

Chen Shu-lien (陳書廉), president of the Matsu Chamber of Commerce, and several senior executives of the organization paid a visit to Lienchiang County Commissioner Chen Shui-sheng (陳雪生) Thursday to express their concern about the MND's troops reduction plan.

"Because of the government's gradual reduction of garrison troops in Matsu in recent years, Chinese fishing boats have often poached in waters near Matsu or even come ashore for illegal trading. If the number of troops is cut further, the security situation will get even worse," Chen Shu-lien said.

Worse still, he said, Matsu's economic development will also be seriously affected if the number of garrison troops is further trimmed.

The Matsu island group is under the jurisdiction of the Lienchiang County Government. It has only a limited number of civilian residents. For years, its economy has relied heavily on garrison troops' consumption.

For security and economic well-being, Chen Shu-lien urged the county government to push the central government and the MND to rethink the Matsu troop reduction plan.

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