A shroud of mystery surrounded news yesterday that the South Korean military was expected to visit the outlying island of Kinmen, which was heavily bombed by China during the Cold War, hoping to learn valuable lessons following an attack by North Korea, reports said yesterday.
The Chinese-language United Evening New reported yesterday that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had allegedly instructed military units to form a delegation for the visit in the wake of last month’s deadly bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island.
The delegation is scheduled to arrive on Dec. 20, the report said, citing unnamed sources.
Kinmen has been a constant reminder of lingering hostilities between Taiwan and China since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
The Chinese army fired more than 470,000 shells at Kinmen and several other islets in a 44-day artillery bombardment beginning on Aug. 23, 1958, killing a total of 618 servicemen and civilians and injuring more than 2,600.
Commenting on the possibility of the visit, Vice Minister of -National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) said: “We can learn from each other’s experiences.”
He declined to comment specifically on the reported visit, citing a policy of no-comment on military diplomacy.
Earlier yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman James Chang (章計平) said the ministry had yet to receive any information from the South Korean government regarding the visit.
“Our overseas office [in South Korea] has noted the media reports [from Tuesday night], but it did not receive any information related to [President Lee’s instruction at his Cabinet meeting] from the South Korean government. We are still looking into the matter,” Chang said.
An officer of the Government Information Office said on condition of anonymity that the office was aware that the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korea’s leading public services broadcaster, would come along with the delegation later this month.
“As the military facilities are administered by the defense ministry, necessary assistance for KBS coverage has been arranged by the ministry,” the officer said.
At press time, the South Korean mission in Taipei had yet to comment on the matter.
Later in the afternoon, a story published in Seoul by state-owned Central News Agency quoted an anonymous South Korean official as saying that the plans had been canceled after the news was exposed and widely reported by Taiwanese media yesterday. The Taipei Times could not corroborate this report.
Last night, Chang said the ministry’s overseas office in Seoul had contacted the South Korean government and been told that Seoul “had no concrete plan [as reported by media] in the first place.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA