President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen has asserted the island’s stance on maintaining stability and the need to bolster defence.
This came as Tsai visited Kinmen, a group of islands located off the coast of mainland China governed by Taiwan as a county, for the 65th anniversary of the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis.
She was accompanied by Minister of Defense, Chiu Kuo-cheng and the Head of the National Security Council, Wellington Koo.
It was only Tsai’s third visit as President to Kinmen to commemorate the anniversary, following a visit in 2020 when she was accompanied by the de facto U.S Ambassador to Taipei.
The event was also attended by veteran soldiers and Hou Yu-ih, the presidential candidate from the opposition Kuomintang party.
Tsai laid a wreath and bowed her head in respect at a memorial park on Kinmen island.
“Our position on maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is very firm,” Tsai told veterans during a luncheon.
She added that there would be no Taiwan today if they had not prevailed during the crisis in 1958.
“To maintain peace, we must first strengthen ourselves. Therefore, we must continue to implement defense reforms, push for self-reliance, and bolster our defense capabilities and resilience.”Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan’s government has revealed plans for the 2024 budget that had a 3.5% increase in the defense budget, a record $606.8 billion New Taiwan Dollars ($19 billion). The proposed budget must be submitted to the legislature for approval.
Also, Tsai lauded all the soldiers and civilians, including those who lost their lives in defending Kinmen throughout the crisis.
Tsai recalled how the servicemen and civilians “fought with one heart and persisted in repelling the enemy forces who tried to invade”, adding that people in Taiwan can “walk on the road of democracy and freedom” thanks to them.
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis began on August 23, 1958. Chinese forces bombarded Kinmen, along with the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago further up the coast, including naval and air battles, seeking to force them into submission.
The crisis saw more than 470,000 artillery shells fired at the islands over 44 days. Over 450 soldiers lost their lives.
Taiwan fought back at the time with support from the U.S, which sent military equipment like advanced Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles, giving Taiwan a technological edge.
The crisis ended in a stalemate, and Taiwan observes August 23 every year as the date it fended off the Chinese attack. It was the last time Taiwanese forces fought with China on a large scale.
“Peace Between The Two Sides Is What We All Want”
At the event, Kuomingtang’s presidential candidate, Hou Yu-ih, urged for peace, saying, “Peace between the two sides is what we all want.”
Hou, who is contesting against frontrunner Vice President, Lai Ching-te in the upcoming presidential election, noted, “I’ve always stressed that if the Taiwan Strait is stable, Taiwan is safe and people can have peace of mind.”
“The fires of war are merciless, and there are no winners in war. (We must) ease tensions across both sides, and maintain the peace and the stability of the Taiwan Strait.”Hou Yu-ih
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has stepped up its military activity in the waters and skies around Taiwan, sending fighter jets and navy vessels near the island or to encircle it.