Taipei: Taiwan is planning to halve the number of troops deployed on three island groups near China, a report said Wednesday, amid easing tensions between the once bitter rivals.
The military is considering reducing the number of soldiers stationed on the Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu islands to fewer than 10,000, the Liberty Times said, citing unnamed top military officials.
The move is aimed at making up for a shortage of ground troops defending the main Taiwan island following recent downsizing of the armed forces, the report said.
The Kinmen islands are only two kilometres (one mile) away from the Chinese city of Xiamen at the closest point.
A defence ministry spokesman said Wednesday that plans to adjust troop deployments were being considered but would not elaborate.
Taiwan’s nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) government once had up to 120,000 troops in the Kinmens, as both a first line of defence against a possible Chinese invasion and a first contingent capable of attacking the mainland.
There were up to 50,000 and 30,000 troops stationed on the Matsu and Penghu islets, respectively, at the peak of hostilities during the Cold War.
The KMT government fled mainland China after its troops were defeated by the Chinese communist forces led by Mao Zedong in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
However, ties between the rivals have improved dramatically since President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT took office last May promising to promote reconciliation and trade links.
The defence ministry announced in March that it will cut the size of the armed forces by more than a fifth by 2014 to 215,000 and scrape compulsory military service within five years.
Officially, Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.