President Tsai Ing-wen gave thanks Wednesday to the fallen soldiers who fended off Chinese Communist forces 65 years ago in a frontline island battle, crediting their victory for putting Taiwan on “the path of democracy and freedom”.Her visit to Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen island — located just a few miles from China — comes as relations between Taipei and Beijing have plummeted in recent years.Laying a wreath to commemorate the soldiers who died during the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, Tsai recalled how the servicemen and civilians “fought with one heart and persisted in repelling the enemy forces who tried to invade”.Fighting broke out on August 23, 1958, when Chinese forces conducted an intense bombardment of Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen and Matsu islands in a bid to dislodge the Nationalists — who had left the mainland after the end of the Chinese Civil War.

Then-US president Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered reinforcements to supply their Taiwanese allies, and unable to take the islands or shell the Nationalists into submission, Beijing announced a ceasefire.”They protected our homeland and thus gave us a chance to head towards the path of democracy and freedom,” Tsai said in a brief speech.”There is no Taiwan if not for our victory.”The anniversary event was also attended by veteran soldiers and Hou Yu-ih, the presidential candidate from opposition Kuomintang party — largely regarded as pro-Beijing compared to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.Echoing Tsai on Kinmen’s “sacrifice, dedication and efforts”, Hou said “peace between the two sides is what we all want”.”I’ve always stressed that if the Taiwan Strait is stable, Taiwan is safe and people can have peace of mind,” said Hou, who is up against frontrunner Vice President Lai Ching-te in the upcoming presidential election.

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