Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Official asks for Kinmen withdrawal

TOURIST ATTRACTION Critics said that it would be ridiculous to pull troops as long as Kinmen was part of the nation's soil, but that pulling some soldiers from the area could be possible

By Flora Wang, Jimmy Chuang and Ko Shu-lin  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Reactions were mixed yesterday from lawmakers in response to Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng's (李炷烽) suggestion that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) withdraw armed forces from Kinmen in a bid to boost Chinese tourism in the area.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), head of the legislature’s Diplomacy and National Defense Committee, supported the commissioner’s idea.

Calling the withdrawal “inevitable,” Lin said recalling the forces stationed on Kinmen would not have a major impact on the nation’s security.

With changes in the nature of war, the strategic importance of Kinmen among Taiwan’s offshore islands had decreased, he said, adding that only Dongyin Isle and Penghu remain important in terms of strategy.

He suggested the ministry gradually downsize the number of forces stationed in Kinmen, while turning Kinmen into a “military buffer zone.”

He said the withdrawal could also serve as a bargaining chip in cross-strait negotiations, adding that the government should demand China also turn cities on its southeast coast, such as Xiamen and Fuzhou, into non-military zones.

He also proposed holding a referendum in Kinmen for residents there to decide on the issue.

KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民), also a member of the committee, echoed Lin’s view, saying that the military facilities in Kinmen could be turned into tourist attractions after the withdrawal.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), however, opposed the idea.

“I’m against the idea because Kinmen remains important in terms of Taiwan’s defense. Military withdrawal is still out of the question given the competitive, opposing and only occasionally cooperative relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” he said.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday also opposed Lee’s idea.

“National security should always be the priority so we should never withdraw the military from Kinmen,” DPP legislative caucus whip Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) said during a press conference yesterday morning.

Yeh said that it would be ridiculous to do so as long as Kinmen was part of the nation’s soil. But she said that it would be fine to decrease the total number of troops stationed there.

DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) said the government should keep its distance from China.

“It could be a dilemma for the military if the government gets too close to China,” Chai said. “When most Taiwanese people become connected with Chinese people in more and more ways, it will become difficult for the military to decide whether to fight back if we were ever challenged or attacked by China in the future.”

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday that it was a complicated matter to disarm Kinmen and it required careful planning and the full cooperation of the local residents.

“It is not a good idea to rush a decision,” he said. “It concerns national defense, national security and the local economy.”

Liu made the remarks during a question-and-answer session at the Executive Yuan yesterday afternoon.

While some have proposed holding a referendum, Liu said that it would be dangerous to do so.

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