Taiwan 'to pull out troops in islets' near China
Taiwanese soldiers at the Hualien army base on January 23, 2013. The Taiwan air force demonstrated their combat skills at the Hualien air base during an annual training before the coming lunar new year. AFP PHOTO / Sam Yeh
Nearly 200 soldiers currently stationed in the Tatan and Ertan islets, which form part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen island group off southeast China's Xiamen city, will be withdrawn from May 2014, said United Evening News, citing defence authorities.
The defence ministry will relinquish control of the islets to the Kinmen county government, while the police and the coastguard are expected to each send 20 officers to the islets from June, the report said.
The two islets, which together have an area of little more than one square kilometre (0.4 square mile), are about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Xiamen at the nearest point.
Kinmen county chief Lee Wuo-shih has said he is confident that reminders of a fierce 1950 battle on the two fortified islets would lure visitors from both Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.
According to Taiwan's military authorities, a 300-strong Taiwanese garrison wiped out more than 700 Chinese troops trying to land on the fortified frontline islets following an intensive artillery bombardment in July of that year.
The battle was part of the Chinese communists' attempts to invade Taiwan, where troops led by Chiang Kai-shek took refuge after being driven from the mainland at the end of a civil war in 1949.
Eight years later, the Chinese army fired more than 470,000 shells on Kinmen and other nearby islets in a 44-day bombardment beginning on August 23, killing 618 servicemen and civilians and injuring more than 2,600.
As late as the 1970s China was still bombarding the islands, although by then the shells were stuffed with propaganda leaflets.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased in recent years since Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform. He was re-elected last year.
Defence officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.
MORE REGIONAL NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday raised doubts if Iran was truly prepared to conclude a final deal with western powers on dismantling i... More Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday raised doubts if Iran was truly prepared to conclude a final deal with western powers on dismantling its nuclear program, but urged US lawmakers not to impose new sanctions. Duration: 00:40
Date 2 hrs ago, Duration 0:39, Views 5