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President Ma Inaugurates Kinmen Peace Bell

Kinmen's peace bell was inaugurated Aug. 23 in a ceremony presided over by President Ma Ying-jeou, former South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Song Kosal, youth ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

We hope this bell will usher in a new era of peace, Ma said as he performed its first sounding. "Peace across the strait has just begun and time is needed for the two sides to build a foundation for trust."

Ma said the principles of "no unification, no independence and no use of force" can maintain cross-strait peace and stability, adding that Taiwan must maintain strong defensive capabilities as the process moves ahead.

The peace bell commemorates the 44-day artillery barrage unleashed upon Kinmen by mainland Chinese forces Aug. 23, 1958. Over 480,000 artillery shells rained down on the island group situated off the southeastern coast of mainland China's Fujian province.

Made partially from artillery shells, the bell weighs 3.5 metric tons and measures 2 meters in height, it bears the word "peace" in more than 100 languages, including Chinese, English and Japanese.

Premier Wu Den-yih said Kinmen has sacrificed a lot to safeguard the security of Taiwan and its other outlying islands, including Matsu and Penghu. "It is now an important base for the development of the mini three links."

Commencing Jan. 1, 2001, the links allow for the direct transport of people and goods between Kinmen and several ports in mainland China.

"More than 1 million passengers from Taiwan and mainland China use the links each year," Ma told de Klerk, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, during a meeting at the Presidential Office Aug. 22 in Taipei.

"Kinmen is now the most frequent site of cross-strait exchanges," Ma added.


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