By Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang
KINMEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Keeping the peace needs a strong defense, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, as she made a rare visit to a frontline island next to China to mark the birthday of a senior military officer conflict with China. Chinese troops.
China has stepped up military activity to try to force democratically-ruled Taiwan to accept Beijing’s sovereignty, despite strong objections from the Taipei government.
Tsai laid a wreath and bowed her head in respect at a memorial park on Kinmen Island, less than 2 km away from Chinese-controlled territory, to mark the 65th anniversary of the start of the second crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
“Our stance on maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is very firm,” Tsai told the veterans over lunch, adding that Taiwan would not exist today if it did not have the crisis of 1958. had prevailed.
The crisis marked the last time Taiwan’s military forces engaged China on a large scale.
“To keep the peace, however, we must first strengthen ourselves,” Tsai added.
“Thus, we must continue to implement national defense reforms, promote defense self-sufficiency, and continuously improve the combat power and resilience of national defenses.”
In August 1958, Chinese forces began bombing Kinmen, along with the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago further up the coast, including naval and aerial combat, for more than a month, in an attempt to force them into submission.
At the time, Taiwan fought back with support from the United States, which sent military equipment such as advanced Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles, giving Taiwan a technological edge.
The crisis ended in a stalemate, and Taiwan considers August 23 each year as the date it repelled the Chinese attack.
It was only Tsai’s third visit as president to mark the anniversary at Kinmen, following a visit in 2020 when she was accompanied by the de facto US ambassador to Taipei.
Kinmen, formerly called Quemoy in English, is today a popular tourist destination, although remnants of past fighting, such as underground bunkers, dot the island, and Taiwan has a significant military presence.
Taiwan has controlled Kinmen and Matsu since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taipei in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists.
(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)