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De-mining Jinmen

May 29, 2009

images…or “Kinmen” or “Quemoy” — evidently, the Taiwanese government is finally getting around to de-mining the island, only a few thousand meters from the Chinese mainland and the (very pleasant) coastal city of Xiamen.

They formed a deadly ring around this island; a steel shield buried beneath the sands.

This was a Cold War-era front line, the place where the Nationalists held the line against communist advance.  Now, as in Cambodia, Vietnam and other former Asian war zones, the mines are being dug up, defused and detonated — one at a time, through painstaking and hazardous labor.

It’s one marker of how far cross-strait relations have come since the Nationalists split with the Communist “bandits” and made a stand here in 1949.

Now, passenger ferries ply the waters between Kinmen and Chinese cities just out of visibility; there’s even talk of building a bridge. The island’s steady de-militarization has seen Taiwanese troop levels drop to some 5,000 here, from a Cold War peak of 100,000.

Kinmen’s mine clean-up began in 2007. The island hopes to be mine-free by 2013. Military officials overseeing the project say the work is now more than 30 percent done.

I went to Kinmen in 2002 and thought much of the militarization on the island had a distinctly 1960’s feel to it.  Jinmen is now a pleasant day trip from Xiamen or Taipei.

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