Troops to stay on Dadan, Erdan islets, Jiang says

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Oct 26, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan will continue to station troops on two of its frontline islets, although the number might be reduced, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said yesterday, in response to suggestions that control over the uninhabited islets be turned over to the coast guard and police.

While not ruling out opening Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) islets to tourists, Jiang said there was still a need for a military presence for the time being.

Answering questions at the legislature, Jiang said a decision on whether to allow tourists to visit the docks or other parts of the islets was expected after a fact-finding mission planned for the next few days.

Officials had said earlier that the Kinmen County Government — which administers Erdan and Dadan — had requested that the two islets be are expected to be opened to tourists next year, with the 200 soldiers stationed there to be replaced by about 40 coast guard and police personnel.

Located just more than 4,000m from the Chinese city of Xiamen, Dadan and Erdan are called “the frontline of the frontlines.” Their distance from the main island of Kinmen is nearly three times as great.

The islets were the scene of artillery battles with communist Chinese forces in 1950 and again in 1958 and partly because of that, cruises depart daily from Xiamen, bringing Chinese tourists to see the islets from the sea.

Even if Chinese tourists are allowed on the islands, Jiang said they would be prohibited from having their pictures taken with the soldiers.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “Our troops are not there to pose for photos.”