Local councilors call for turning Kinmen into demilitarized zone

A bipartisan collective of Kinmen County councilors has launched an initiative to turn the frontline islands into a demilitarized zone (DMZ), amid escalating tensions between Taiwan and China.

On Monday, two groups — one a cross-party alliance and the other made up of independent councilors — called for the removal of military personnel and installations from the county as part of a wider effort to promote cross-straits peace.

The two groups also called for closer ties with Xiamen, including pushing for the construction of a bridge linking Kinmen and the Chinese city.

Independent councilor Chen Yang-hu (???), who leads the cross-party alliance, explained that rising tensions between Taiwan and China, and China and the United States had made the people of Kinmen nervous.

“Don’t let history repeat itself,” Chen said, referring to Kinmen’s experiences as a frontline battlefield during the Chinese Civil War.

The Taiwan-controlled Kinmen, which lies roughly 10 kilometers east of Xiamen in Fujian Province, southeastern China, was heavily shelled during the two Taiwan Strait Crises in the 1950s, amid military confrontations between the Republic of China (ROC) government in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government on the mainland.

At the height of the conflict, 120,000 Taiwan soldiers were garrisoned in the then-heavily fortified county.

Chen said Kinmen could not now afford to be drawn into cross-strait military conflicts again after most military forces were withdrawn from the frontline islands to Taiwan proper amid warming cross-strait relations in the early 21st century.

As a result, many county councilors hoped that through the two new alliances at the Council, they could get the voices of local residents to be heard by the leaders on the two sides across the Taiwan Strait.

Local residents have reached a “consensus” that no wars should happen in Kinmen, a state of affairs that prompted the formation of the two political alliances at the county council, Chen said.

Once Kinmen is demarcated as a DMZ, Chen suggested replacing its current garrison of around 2,000 soldiers with a coastal patrol or police force.

Moreover, Kinmen could serve as a location for dialogue and meetings between the two sides of the strait, Chen added.

In addition to the DMZ initiative, Chen said that the two alliances are also urging the construction of a bridge linking Kinmen and Xiamen and the development of a Kinmen-Xiamen Special Economic Zone as part of efforts to boost Kinmen’s development.

Building such a bridge, however, will not be possible unless the two sides maintain peaceful relations, the councilor said, adding that the special lifestyle shared by Kinmen and Xiamen people should be maintained to boost the local economy and sustain future development.

Meanwhile, Shih Ming-teh (???), the former chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party who has spent decades promoting the idea of turning outlying Kinmen and Lienchiang counties into a buffer zone, said Tuesday that he was pleased with the emergence of the county councilors’ initiative and was willing to meet with representatives in Kinmen to elaborate on his vision.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel