War scars on Taiwan’s front line with China

On the windswept Taiwanese island of Kinmen, 50 year-old Chen Ing-wen is remembering his time as a soldier shooting flares at Chinese trawlers that got too close.

He is one of a group of veterans who returned to the island this month.

Kinmen sits on the front line between China and Taiwan - just a short ferry ride from the mainland and an hour's flight from Taipei.

It's the last place where the two engaged in major fighting in 1958 at the height of the Cold War.

Decades later, Chen did his military service on Kinmen - from 1991 to 1993 - and remembers his encounters with the Chinese ships.

"At night you could hear the sound of the machines turning, louder and louder, then our cannons down there in the plains that we just passed would start to fire off flares. Once the flares lit up we would see, oh my god, a bunch of ships have already approached."

Kinmen, along with the Matsu islands, has been held by the government in Taipei since the defeated Republic of China forces fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Regular shelling of Kinmen did not end until 1978, when Washington formally recognised Beijing over Taipei.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has never ruled out the use of force to achieve unification.

Earlier this month, China's air force carried out four days of mass incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone.

The recent spike in tensions has sparked alarm in Western capitals, Taipei, and has got the locals of Kinmen worried.

Jessica Chen runs a local tea shop:

"Of course everyone is afraid of war, but I hope there can be peace in the Taiwan Strait, I hope that we can join hands and get along. If there are any problems, we can sit down and talk it out, we should not ignite the fuse of war. If we can pave the road for this, then coming generations will have no worries in their lives."

Kinmen's government is working hard to promote the island as more than just a war monument.

But the remnants of war are everywhere - from bunkers on the beach to anti-landing fortifications line the shore and tanks rumbling through the back streets.

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