Taiwan’s president pledges to boost self-defence after visit to war memorial


Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen renewed her pledge to strengthen Taiwan’s self-defence on Wednesday as she visited a war memorial from the last time Taiwan and China battled.
Tsai, visiting the outlying islands of Kinmen where the conflict was fought 65 years ago, commemorated those who died in the conflict.
She was accompanied by Minister of Defence Chiu Kuo-cheng and the head of the National Security Council, Wellington Koo.
“In order to keep the peace, we need to strengthen ourselves,” said Tsai. “As such, we need to continue to reform the national defence, push for self-reliance, strengthen our defence capabilities and resilience.”
Taiwan’s government on Monday revealed plans for the 2024 budget that had a 3.5 per cent increase in the defense budget, a record USD 606.8 billion New Taiwan Dollars (USD 19 billion), according to the semi-official Central News Agency.
The proposed budget must be submitted to the Legislature for approval.
Tsai’s words have particular resonance as Kinmen sits in the Taiwan Strait, the narrow strip of ocean that divides Taiwan and China.
At its closest points, the southern Chinese city of Xiamen is visible to the naked eye from Kinmen.
In 1958, China began shelling Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which sit geographically closer to China’s southern coast than they do Taiwan.
The campaign sent hundreds of thousands of shells raining down on the islands, while China’s People’s Liberation Army also fought naval and air battles with the army of the Kuomingtang.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and the Kuomingtang was the political party that fled to Taiwan after fighting and losing a civil war to the Communist Party in China.
Today, Kinmen and Matsu have become domestic tourist destinations, and the former military barracks and lookout points that once dominated the islands are now stops on tour bus routes.