Taiwan Seeks Return of Missing Soldier Who Was Found in China


A Taiwanese soldier who went missing last week has been located in the Chinese city of Xiamen, and Taiwan’s government is working to have him returned, according to a Taiwanese official.

The soldier, identified as 26-year-old Chen, was reported missing after being absent from roll call on March 9 on Erdan Island, part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen chain located near the Chinese city of Xiamen.

The Kinmen Defense Command contacted Chen’s family following his disappearance and launched a search operation.

Chiu Tai-san, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), said on Monday that Chinese authorities had confirmed Chen’s whereabouts in Xiamen and Taiwan will follow the proper procedures for his repatriation.

“It’s confirmed that he is in the mainland. The Defense Ministry and relevant departments are actively aware of the relevant progress and situation,” he told reporters.

Chiu said Taiwan’s authorities are still investigating whether Chen was “a deserter,” Focus Taiwan reported.

It remains unclear what caused his disappearance and how he ended up in Xiamen. Local media reported that Chen allegedly swam to China and was found by a Chinese coast guard patrol boat, but Taiwan had not verified these claims.

Kinmen’s lawmaker Chen Yu-jen said the soldier had no financial debt and “behaved normally” in the days leading up to his disappearance. His father claimed that Chen was a poor swimmer who could not swim 20 meters.

In Taiwan, a soldier absent from duty without permission for more than six days can be subject to three years in jail, detention, or a fine of up to NT$300,000 (around $9,780), according to Focus Taiwan.

Taiwan Reported Loss of Handgun

Chen’s disappearance occurred just a day after Taiwan’s Navy reported the loss of a handgun and weapon components from its armories.

Taiwan’s navy found that a 45-caliber handgun was replaced with a fake gun at the Marine Corps Recruit Training Center in Pingtung county, and two T-91 rifles were missing bolts.

Taiwan’s Marine Corps have launched inspections and investigations into the matter, Taipei Times reported.

Some Taiwanese lawmakers have raised concerns over the incidents and urged authorities to tighten military discipline to prevent further occurrences.

“Scandals involving personal relationships and drug use in the armed forces in recent years show that the Defense Ministry has loose screws,” Hsu Chih-chieh, a legislator of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said on March 8.

Another DPP legislator, Wang Ting-yu, said the loss of weapons was “absolutely unacceptable,” saying that the stolen firearm could fall into criminals’ hands. Wang urged authorities to catch the perpetrator and resolve the issue.

China–Taiwan Tensions

Beijing regards self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be united with mainland China by any means necessary. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ramped up military pressure on Taiwan over the past year, with Chinese aircraft frequently violating Taiwan’s airspace.

PLA aircraft over Pingtan island
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft flies over the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, one of mainland China’s closest points to the island of Taiwan, in Pingtan island, Fujian province, China on Aug. 5, 2022. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Earlier this month,  Chinese premier Li Keqiang said at the National People’s Congress that Beijing should advance “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan while taking “resolute steps” to oppose the island’s independence.

In response, the MAC said that Beijing must “face up to the fact that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are not subordinate to each other” and urged the CCP to respect the Taiwanese people’s commitment to upholding the island’s sovereignty.

The MAC also called on Beijing to handle cross-Strait affairs pragmatically “in a rational, equal, practical, and mutually respectful manner” so as to foster positive interaction between the two sides.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has made bolstering Taiwan’s defense capabilities her top priority but ruled out armed confrontation with China. She had offered talks with the CCP to reach a “mutually agreeable arrangement,” but Beijing rebuffed them.


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