Taiwan soon to clear all landmines on frontline islands: Ma
June 19, 2012, 12:31 am TWN
TAIPEI--In yet another sign of warming ties with former rival China, Taiwan said Monday that all landmines laid on the frontline islands off the mainland during the 1950s will be removed within six months.
The shores of Kinmen and Matsu, two Taiwan-controlled island groups sitting just a few kilometers away from the southeastern Chinese province of Xiamen, were carpeted with tens of thousands of mines after the two sides split in 1949, at the end of the Chinese Civil War.
The mines had been used as critical weapons by the Kuomintang troops to fend off several major onslaughts launched by the Chinese communist forces during the 1950s, but have now emerged as a barrier against the ever closer ties between the former cross-strait foes.
"All the mines on Kinmen and Matsu are expected to be removed before the year's end," said President Ma Ying-jeou, the initiator of the ongoing detente with Beijing, according to a statement released by the presidential office.
Ma made the remarks while meeting Jordan's visiting Prince Mired bin Raad Al-Hussein, the special envoy of a United Nations convention against the production and use of anti-personnel mines.
The convention was enacted in 1999 and has so far been ratified by 150 countries. Taiwan has not ratified the convention, which is restricted to U.N. members.
Taiwan's defense ministry spokesman David Lo told AFP that the de-mining project, launched six years ago, will be completed around six months ahead of the schedule.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have eased markedly since Ma came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links with the mainland. Ma was re-elected in January for a second and the last four-year term.