An American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director for the first time yesterday joined a Taiwanese president to commemorate the 823 Artillery Bombardment of 1958.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) laid a wreath and bowed her head in respect at a memorial park in Kinmen County to mark the 62nd anniversary of the beginning of the bombardment, also known as the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.
AIT Director Brent Christensen also offered his respects, standing behind Tsai.
Like Tsai, Christensen did not make public comments.
The Chinese Communist Party began the bombardment of Kinmen on Aug. 23, 1958, nine years after the Republic of China (ROC) government fled to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War.
According to Academia Sinica data, 475,000 artillery shells were fired within 44 days at the Kinmen islands, which lie 10km from Xiamen in China’s Fujian Province, but the communist troops could not capture them.
The bombardment is regarded as a significant battle that helped safeguard the ROC government in Taiwan.
Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) yesterday thanked Christensen for his attendance at the event.
“We are thankful to our US friends for joining us on this very meaningful day, to recall those who came before us and made great sacrifices to protect the safety of those living on Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu,” he said. “Those sacrifices helped secure regional peace, and advance Taiwan’s democracy and freedom.”
The spirit of the commemoration ceremony serves as a reminder that the protection of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom relies on the combined efforts of all Taiwanese, he said.
“U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation goes back decades and has been a key element in our partnership,” the AIT wrote on Facebook yesterday.
“Commemorations such as these remind us that today’s U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation builds on a long and proud history that exemplifies the phrase ‘Real Friends, Real Progress,’” it wrote.
Christensen also paid tribute to Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Medendorp and Lieutenant Colonel Frank Lynn, Americans who died on Kinmen in 1954 while defending it with ROC soldiers, the AIT wrote.
Meanwhile, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has announced that it plans to conduct more drills in the coming week in the waters just to the north and south of Taiwan.
The Ministry of National Defense yesterday released a video reiterating Taiwan’s readiness in the face of ongoing Chinese threats.
Separately on Saturday, speaking at a Taiwan-US cultural event, Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said that her work in the US is focused on security, the economy and Taiwan’s global participation.
On the issue of security, Hsiao emphasized Taiwan-US cooperation on security in the Indo-Pacific region.
“To bow and bend the knee will not bring lasting peace. All Taiwanese have a responsibility toward supporting national defense,” she said, citing a statement made previously by Tsai.
On the issue of the economy, Hsiao said that she is hoping for the establishment of a Taiwan-US bilateral trade agreement.
She also thanked the US for its continued support of Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, and for taking the lead regarding other nations that similarly face suppression and isolation by China.
“When like-minded nations stand together they become stronger,” she said.
Additional reporting by Reuters and Aaron Tu
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