DEADLY FLASH POINT AND A FORGOTTEN U.S. WAR
October 25, 2004
By Toby Westerman
Copyright 2004 International News Analysis Today
The United States faces a "flash point" for military confrontation between the U.S. and Communist China in the narrow straits separating the mainland and the democratically governed island of Taiwan, according to a long-time observer of the region.
In an exclusive interview with International News Analysis Today, Lloyd Evans, a former marine and retired businessman, spoke of his participation in the U.S./Republic of China artillery war against Communist China in 1958, and the present dangers in the Taiwan Straits.
Evans organized the Taiwan Veterans Badge of Honor Association, a group honoring those who risked their lives during that armed conflict, and he and the group remain vigilant against any Communist assault on Taiwan.
The Communist Party of China is firmly in charge of Chinese society, and will stay in control "for some considerable time," Evans told INA Today. Contrary to some popular reports, Evans states that there is "no substance" to claims that China is gradually becoming "democratic."
"Communists kill for what they think you're thinking," Evans said as he painted a picture of absolute control of China by the Communist Party, which comprises approximately five percent of the population, yet which controls a military of some 25 million.
Emphasizing the need for clarity and firmness in U.S. foreign policy in the region, Evans pointed out that the Communists "will not let up" in their determination to capture Taiwan. "There is no greater flash point in Asia than Taiwan," Evans noted, adding that a conflict could easily begin in the Straits of Taiwan.
U.S. President George W. Bush's remark that the U.S. would do "whatever it takes" to insure the security of Taiwan impressed Evans.
Relations with Taiwan are governed by the Taiwan Relations Act, which stipulates that the U.S. is bound to assist Taiwan in defense against attack. Congress passed the Act in April 1979, after U.S. President Jimmy Carter stripped Taiwan of formal recognition as the true government of China, and recognized the Communist government in Beijing as the sole government of the Chinese people.
Democratic Party presidential nominee Senator John Kerry, however, remains an uncertain quantity for Evans, with little known about Kerry's position on Taiwan or his willingness to be resolute in the face of threats from China.
Neither sanctions from the world community, nor the threat of the loss of the 2008 Olympics, would deter China from invading Taiwan, if the moment seemed right, warned Evans.
China is currently engaged in a remarkable build-up and modernization of its armed forces. The majority of foreign assistance to China's military program comes from Russia, but the European Union may soon drop sanctions on military sales to China, giving the Chinese high command another valuable source of military hardware and technology.
The 1958 conflict, in which Evans and thousands of other American troops took part, began with a massive artillery barrage on the evening of August 23rd , and was directed at the islands of Quemoy (Kinmen) and Matsu, ten miles off the mainland shore.
Peoples Liberation Army patrol craft prevented relief supplies from reaching the islands. The artillery attack and the naval blockade gave a stark warning that a full-scale invasion of the island of Taiwan was about to be launched.
Then-U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower remained resolute.
Eisenhower committed U.S. marine artillery, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and jet fighters to the defense of Taiwan. On September 11, 1958, Eisenhower addressed the nation on television and radio to explain his actions, and told the American people that the attack was a "test of the free world's courage in resisting aggression."
Communist China's offensive ended in early November when ships from the U.S. Seventh Fleet escorted a relief convoy to Quemoy and Matsu without interference from PLA patrol craft.
Intermittent shelling of Quemoy continued, however, until January 7, 1959.
The forty-four day "artillery war" cost the lives of 3,000 civilians, 1,000 military personnel from the Republic of China on Taiwan, and the destruction of 4,000 homes.
Communist China continues to claim the island of Taiwan as its "twenty-third province." Taiwan remains separate from China, and is ruled by a democratically elected government which traces its origins to the founder of China's Republic, Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Following the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949, retreating Nationalist forces under Chinag Kai-shek established the Republic of China on Taiwan.
The 1958 artillery war was a serious challenge, said Evans, "and could have lead to WWIII." The present dangers in the Taiwan Straits require the same firm determination and devotion to the ideals of freedom that motivated Eisenhower, Evans declared.
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