TAIPEI (Reuters) – A Taiwanese soldier serving on an islet close to the Chinese coast who went missing last week has been found in China, a senior Taiwan minister said on Monday, an incident that has happened amid heightened tensions.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Thursday that the soldier had failed to report for roll-call on Erdan islet, part of the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen group of islands that lie near the Chinese city of Xiamen.
Speaking to reporters in parliament, Chiu Tai-san, head of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council, said the soldier was in China.
“It’s confirmed that he is in the mainland. The defence ministry and relevant departments are actively aware of the relevant progress and situation,” he said.
“The defence ministry has their relevant mechanisms for identifying deserters,” Chiu added.
The defence ministry declined to comment. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has over the past three years stepped up its military and political pressure to try and get Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan’s government rejects those claims.
During the height of the Cold War, defectors from both sides would on occasion swim between China and Kinmen.
At its nearest point, from the Mashan observation post, the main island of Kinmen is at low tide less than 2km (1.6 miles) from Chinese-controlled territory.
It was from there former World Bank chief economist Justin Lin swam across to defect to China in 1979.
Taiwan has controlled Kinmen, as well as the Matsu islands further up the Chinese coast, since the Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with the communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.