Coast Guard may replace islets' troops

TAIPEI - Two outlying front-line islets will be guarded by Coast Guard and police forces if they are demilitarized and opened to tourists, the Ministry of National Defence (MND) said yesterday.

A plan is currently in the works to allow travelers to the Dadan and Erdan islets, which are administered as part of offshore Kinmen County. MND spokesman Luo Shou-he said that the military will ask the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and other law enforcement authorities to take over responsibility for the islets' security if the government approves the proposal.

In the case of conflict, however, the MND would have the Kinmen Defence Command take over the defence of the islets.

Luo refused to confirm if demilitarization is scheduled to take place in June next year, as reported by a Chinese-language newspaper yesterday.

The United Evening News reported that the MND will end its presence on Dadan and Erdan next May and that 20 coastguardsmen and 20 police officers will take over at the islets the following month.

The Kinmen government reached an agreement with the military earlier this year to demilitarize the islets and to open them up to visitors, including those from mainland China.

Kinmen previously asked that the two islets be opened to tourists but that military personnel continue to be stationed there as they are a selling point for tourism. This proposal was rejected by the MND, citing national security.

The two islets lie only 7 nautical miles from Xiamen in China's Fujian province and are currently occupied by military personnel. They are off-limits to the public.

Dadan covers 0.79 square kilometers and Erdan covers 0.28 square kilometers.