Taiwan to remove soldiers from islands near China

February 21, 2013 - 6:50:38 am

TAIWAN: Taiwan plans to withdraw troops from two islets near the Chinese mainland and will turn them into tourist attractions, officials said.

Tatan and Ertan form part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen island group off southeast China’s Xiamen city and are manned by around 120 soldiers.

Kinmen County Magistrate Lee Wuo-shih discussed the plan for the islands with the Minister without portfolio, Lin Cheng-ze.

“The minister has in principle agreed to our plan of troop withdrawal. Once the plan is completed, it will be another crucial sign of improving ties between Taiwan and the mainland,” Lee said.

The islets, together with an area of one square kilometre (0.4 square mile), are about 4km from Xiamen at the nearest point.

While they may soon be emptied of soldiers, there is no indication Taiwan will terminate its garrison on much-larger Kinmen island soon. The exact number of soldiers there is a secret.

Lee hoped that reminders of a fierce 1950 battle on the two fortified islets would lure visitors from Taiwan and the Chinese mainland.                                     AFP