Thu, Oct 03, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Troop withdrawals worry lawmakers

Staff writer, with CNA

Several lawmakers voiced concerns yesterday over a plan approved by the Cabinet that could see military personnel withdrawn from two islets in Kinmen County so that the islets can be made into tourist destinations.

The Cabinet in the middle of last month approved a plan for the Ministry of National Defense to hand over control of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽), 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.

Noting the historical significance attached to the islets, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said during a legislative committee session that he opposes the military’s full withdrawal from the two islets.

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

“Only a defeated military would pull back,” he added.

He did not oppose the military reducing its personnel posted on the islets, but he strongly objected to a full military withdrawal.

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, Minister of National Defense Yen Ming (嚴明), 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 to the plan, which was 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 KMT Legislator Yang Ying-hsiung (楊應雄) of Kinmen County.

The military cannot fully withdraw from the islets, which are important to national defense, Yang said, 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 about 4km from Xiamen on China’s southeastern coast and served as two frontline military outposts following the KMT’s retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Dadan and Erdan have areas of 79 and 28 hectares respectively.

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