ROC front line islands gear up for tourism

•Publication Date:10/28/2013
•Source: Taiwan Today

Under the steady and peaceful progress of cross-strait relations, the long-term proper development of outlying islands formerly under direct military control such as Dadan and Erdan islands in Kinmen County, will soon take place without compromising their defense capability, ROC Premier Jiang Yi-huah said Oct. 27.

“The government is preparing for the opening of Dadan and Erdan to tourists, but the military forces stationed on the islands will not serve as a photographic backdrop,” Jiang said, adding that the islands can be used to educate the public about military matters without interfering with the soldiers’ duties.

The premier’s comments came as he visited defense forces based on Kinmen to hear the opinions of relevant authorities on the opening of the two small islands to tourism.

According to Jiang, the islands have both great military and political importance, and many legislators had expressed the wish that the army would continue to play a key symbolic role. Following discussions among the Cabinet, the Ministry of National Defense and other agencies concerned with security, it was decided to maintain appropriate force levels on the islands.

Kinmen is the ROC’s front line of defense, Jiang said, and Dadan and Erdan are the front line’s front line. As such, they played an important role in such notable victories as the Battle of Guningtou in 1949 and the Artillery Bombardment of Aug. 23, 1958, and have historically valuable military sites.

Following the lifting of martial law in 1992, Kinmen County Government asked if it could take over administration of the military facilities and historical sites, including those of Dadan and Erdan. Minister without Portfolio Lin Junq-tzer was instructed to form a task force from related ministries, central and local government, and consensus over the transfer of power has largely been reached.

Prior to opening the islands, Jiang said, the Ministry of Culture and MND are carefully assessing which military structures should be retained. It is hoped that the islands will be open to visitors once the task force’s duties are completed by the end of June next year.

The two islands lie only a few kilometers off the coast from mainland China’s Fujian Province, and are a similar distance from Little Kinmen.

Dadan has an area of 1.08 square kilometers, while Erdan is only 0.28 square kilometer in size. At present, both islands are only inhabited by the military and are off-limits to civilians.