Islet tourism to affect presence: military

STAY OR GO::Two outlying islets close to Kinmen have long been military outposts, but they could be given over to the county government, a military spokesman said

By Rich Chang  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 - Page 3

The military yesterday said that if the Executive Yuan passes a proposal to open two islets — Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) — to the public, the military would withdraw all troops from the islets and allow the Kinmen County Government to take them over in all respects.

The two islets have long been military outposts that are off-limits to the public. Dadan covers an area of 0.79km2, while Erdan measures 0.28km2.

Kinmen County Commissioner Li Wo-shi (李沃士) has urged the military to conditionally open the two islets to the public to help boost tourism in the outlying islands.

Li said on Tuesday that the county government could complete development projects and start to construct harbors and other public facilities this year.

According to his government’s assessment of the public works, they could be finished within two years and the county government could take over the islets in three years’ time, the commissioner said.

He added that some military facilities would be maintained to attract tourists.

Li called for the opening of the two islets to the general public on the condition that the military’s operations would not be affected.

Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) yesterday said that if the Executive Yuan decides to open the islets to the public, the military would seek a total and immediate troop withdrawal and the return of the islets to the local government.

The military spokesman added that the Kinmen County Government should coordinate with the Ministry of the Interior and the Coast Guard Administration on matters like stationing police and coast guard authorities on the islets to maintain security, and prevent crime and smuggling.

The military should take over security and defense during times of war, he added.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Chen-hsiang (陳鎮湘) said he believed it is not currently suitable to withdraw troops from the two islets.

“They still have a strategic significance,” he said, adding that the military should take the nation’s whole military deployment into consideration.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said opening the islets to the public to boost tourism does not conflict with stationing troops there and the military has to let the public know whether the islets still serve national defense purposes or not.