Taiwan says missing soldier found in China

Taipei, Taiwan (CNN) A Taiwanese soldier who went missing last week on an island near the Chinese coast has been found in mainland China, a Taiwanese official said on Monday, raising the possibility of a highly unusual defection amid heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait. .

Speaking to reporters, Chiu Tai-san, minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said China has informed Taiwan that the soldier, surnamed Chen, is currently in mainland China.

Chen was reported missing on Erdan Island following a roll call, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, adding that it had set up a special task force to locate him. .

Erdan, part of the Taipei-controlled Kinmen Islands, is located less than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the Chinese port city of Xiamen in southeastern Fujian province.

In recent years, Beijing has stepped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that the Chinese Communist Party claims as its own despite never having ruled it.

China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) frequently sends warplanes and warships near Taiwan, in a campaign to intimidate the island and wear down its equipment.

On Monday, Chiu said the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense had mechanisms to determine whether the soldier should be identified as a deserter.

He added that the Taiwanese and Chinese sides have communication channels to handle emergency situations and fight crime. “The Department of Defense and the Coast Guard Administration are actively understanding the progress and the situation,” Chiu said.

CNN has contacted the Taiwan Ministry of Defense for comment.

Propaganda Victories

Although defection between the two sides has been rarely heard of in recent years, it was once more common.

In 2002, Taiwan’s then defense minister said that the Taiwanese military had seen 20 cases of defection to China between 1949 and 1989.

Defectors on both sides were seen as huge propaganda gains – and sometimes rewarded in cash.

In 1981, China paid a $370,000 reward to a Taiwanese air force major who defected to the mainland with an American-built reconnaissance aircraft – a valuable asset to the PLA in the ‘era.

Other defectors swam between China and Kinmen. The closest distance from the main island of Kinmen to the Chinese coast at low tide is less than 2 kilometers (1.6 miles).

In 1979, Justin Lin, a Taiwanese ground force captain and company commander, swam across this channel to defect to China. He then studied at the prestigious Peking University and became a renowned economist.

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