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Taiwan marks battle anniversary with peace call

Taiwan marks battle anniversary with peace call

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou called Sunday for China to help usher in an era of peace with Taiwan as he marked the 50th anniversary of a fierce battle between the archrivals on an outlying island.
Ma made the appeal during a trip to Kinmen, a fortified island also known as Quemoy just miles (kilometers) off China's Xiamen city in Fujian province. He greeted dozens of war veterans and visited bunkers and other battle sites.
"People across the Taiwan Strait must not allow the rerun of any civil war tragedies," Ma said. "We should build on the base of our (recent) reconciliation and usher in wider cooperation."
"Let us turn this killing field into a land of peace for the 21st century," he said.
In 1958, Mao Zedong's forces fired nearly half a million shells at the main Kinmen island and adjacent islets in a 44-day artillery bombardment. With the backing of the United States, Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist troops held on and later built nearby Taiwan into a fortress, resisting Beijing's attempts to put it under its fold.
After once ruling China, the Nationalists were driven to Taiwan in 1949 by Mao's Communist forces. China still claims the self-ruled island is part of its territory to be reunified by force if necessary.
Addressing a solemn ceremony in Kinmen, Ma lauded the soldiers who fought in the 1958 battle.
"In this battle, we proved our determination to safeguard Taiwan and won the respect of the world," Ma said.
The Kinmen bombardment began on Aug. 23, 1958. However, commemorations were postponed for a day by a typhoon.
Since taking office in May, Ma has sought to end hostilities with China by cementing closer economic ties.
In June, Taiwan and China broke a 10-year hiatus to restart negotiations. The sides have subsequently begun regular charter flights and increased the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan.
With hostilities easing, regular ferry services were launched between Kinmen and Xiamen in 2000. Many of Kinmen's 40,000 residents buy daily supplies from nearby Fujian, and many have bought property and sent their children to schools there.
But a proposal to build a seven-mile (11-kilometer) bridge linking Kinmen and Xiamen has been stalled for years. Taiwan fears the project could be viewed as a symbol of political unity, and most Taiwanese refuse to unite with authoritarian mainland China.
On Sunday, Ma said his administration will consider the bridge project and another Kinmen proposal to obtain water supplies from Fujian.


Updated : 2021-10-24 14:45 GMT+08:00