TAIPEI, March 14 ― Taiwan’s defence minister said today that the government is investigating the disappearance of a soldier serving on an offshore island who has been found in China, and vowed to bring him back.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Minister 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 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 views Taiwan as its own territory, has over the past three years stepped up military and political pressure to try and get Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan’s government rejects those claims.
During the height of the Cold War, defectors from both sides would on occasion swim between China and Kinmen.
At its nearest point, from the Mashan observation post, the main island of Kinmen is at low tide less than 2km (1.6 miles) from Chinese-controlled territory.
It was from there former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin 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 Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, who established the People’s Republic of China. ― Reuters