Taiwan says it hopes to bring back soldier who went to China

The soldier disappeared last week from the front-line island of Kinmen before being discovered in China.

Two veterans raising a Taiwan flag on Kinmen. The sea is behind them and the landscape is rocky.
Kinmen is the last place where forces from Beijing and Taipei were involved in major combat, back in 1958 [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Taiwan’s defence minister has said the self-ruled territory’s government is investigating the disappearance of a soldier serving on an offshore island who has been found in China.

Speaking to reporters at parliament, Chiu Kuo-cheng said: “We certainly hope to bring him back home. So how will we get him back? There are alternative channels we are pursuing.”

He did not elaborate on those channels.

The minister denied what he called rumours that the soldier had fled from abusive treatment by the military.

When asked whether there was any risk that the missing soldier could disclose classified military deployment and location information, he replied, “Regardless of whether he has any such capability, which we neither confirm nor deny, we would not need to make any large-scale strategic adjustments to mitigate any information provided by this one individual.”

The soldier, serving on Erdan islet, which is part of the Kinmen islands close to the Chinese coast, went missing last week and was found on Monday.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has not commented on the issue.

China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, has stepped up military and political pressure over the past three years to try and get Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan’s government rejects Beijing’s claims and says it is for the people of Taiwan to determine their future.

During the height of the Cold War, defectors from both sides would sometimes swim between China and Kinmen, which at low tide can be less than 2km (1.6 miles) from Chinese-controlled territory.

It was from there that Justin Lin, who went on to become the chief economist of the World Bank in 2008, swam across to defect to China in 1979.

Taiwan has controlled Kinmen, as well as the Matsu islands further up the Chinese coast, since the nationalist Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the civil war with the communists, who established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters