Invasion of Kinmen and Matsu Islands

Vlad Plasmius

Junior Member
Now, while most people talk about the invasion of Taiwan, we tend to forget there are Taiwanese-held islands on the coast of China. Any invasion would have to factor in these islands. So, the question here is, can Taiwan effectively defend these islands were conflict to erupt?

Now here's what we have:

- Matsu has a Tien Kung missile battery with a range of 100 kilometers and the Hsiung Feng II with a similar range for ant-shipping.
- Matsu Islands are home to about 18,000 Taiwanese troops
- Kinmen Islands are within 2 miles of the Chinese mainland
- Kinmen Islands are home to about 55,000 troops
- Are capable of launching artillery strikes on Fujian province at the beginning of a war
- Xiamen has S-300 batteries preventing any air support to Quemoy island
- Xiamen is also home to a port making it possible to send ships to Quemoy and maintain them
- Two divisions, a normal infantry and motorized infantry, and five brigades are headquartered in Xiamen
- The U.S.-Taiwan defense agreement does not cover the islands on the mainland coast

The Sky Bow battery gives Taiwan some limited air defense capability over mainland China. That would need to be removed completely to keep China on the offense. Given that the islands have an airport with two more planned, China would have good reason to invade the islands. With Taiwan's development of a cruise missile the ability to get inside Chinese airspace and fire one would be a threat needing to be dealt with.

On Kinmen the proximity to Chinese airbases, air defenses, naval bases, and army bases makes it a key target for attack. Naval power would be able to cut off the island from naval support and air defenses and air power could suppress ground forces and prevent airlifts. The artillery regiments stationed there would be able to shell Kinmen island, though Taiwanese forces could react in turn. In a pre-emptive strike, however, it’s likely that initial air support and artillery shelling would negate this kind of attack.

If both island groups were invaded successfully the PRC would likely end up with thousands of prisoners to use to advantage in negotiations. In addition, China would have reduced Taiwan’s active military force to around 147,000. The most important part is that such an attack can reduce any delusions of China being weak and incapable of taking on Taiwan. It would serve an important warning to Taiwan.

This would be an important operation in the event of full-on war with Taiwan. It would allow for a slight narrowing of the field of operation in the Taiwan Straits. And make it easier to create an effective blockade of the Straits by filling them with destroyers. This would help pave way for an invasion of the Penghu islands and establishment of a beachhead in Taiwan.

Finn McCool

Registered Member
Have you factored the Pescadores into this equation? I don't know what Taiwan has on them, but they are positioned right in the middle of the Strait and they would be able to massively screw up in-air refueling, transfering supplies to a beachead on Taiwan and pretty much any thing the Chinese want to do undisturbed in the Strait because they would be taking fire from their rear (presumably after taking Kinmen and Matsu). Do you know what forces they have in the Pescadores? I don't so I'll check it out and post it.

And for some reason I really want to use a banana here so I will.:nana:

In the 40's the Kuomantiang repulsed an invasion of the islands. They had far superior weapons though, and this is no longer the case.


Junior Member
Actually, in the event that China would want to invade Taiwan, I would think that the islands would be more of a weak point for Taiwan as opposed to China.

In one of the discussions I had with one of my teachers at school, he posed a hypothetical in which China would threaten to strike one of the outlying islands (Kinmen, for instance) unless the government agreed to unify. Obviously the island itself would be incapable of protecting itself, as there are no (as far as I know) Patriot missile batteries stationed there, so basically it's a sitting duck. Although there are extensive underground tunnel networks (which is why Kinmen survived the bombardment in the 40s) a full scale missile strike would still cause a LOT of damage.

Its location also prevents the bulk of the Taiwanese military from protecting it, the same goes for Penghu or Matsu. There used to be a F-CK-1 squadron based at Penghu, but I'm pretty certain that it's been redeployed.

At any rate, how would the Taiwanese government respond? Either let the people on the islands die or give in to the demands of Beijing. Though animosity towards China might rise due to this kind of action, the government would be even MORE pressure if it decided to let the islands fend for themselves, effectively sacrificing them for... what?

I'm currently ignoring the factor of international backlash, because there's no way of really determining how the world would react if China used the "it's an internal matter, mind your own business" excuse.

Anyway, that's pretty much why I've always considered the outlying islands to be more of a hindrance to Taiwan than an effective deterrent. There are military garrisons in Kinmen and Matsu (Though I haven't been to Matsu) but probably only capable of repelling amphibious landings. Penghu's a tourist trap (Awesome place, went there last summer), and has little to no defenses, making it easy pickings.

Finn McCool

Registered Member
China would not be well served by the tactic you described. It would make them look like a huge bully and would bring the international community (or at least good old Uncle Sam:D) rushing to the rescue. However, China might try to "reclaim their rightful territory by peaceful means for the good of the Chinese people" and simply move in on the islands, paying no attention to the Taiwanese. The Taiwanese would either have to fire first or let the Chinese in without a shot. That would make it look a lot less bad for China and would maximize public confusion and apathy over the issue in the US. Trust me, I live here and if people don't really understand:confused: why their government is sending troops someplace they won't like it after the whole Iraq thing.

I think Penghu would be tough to land on because of the outlying islands and coral atolls and islands that appear at low tide. The same goes for Matsu and Kinmen I think. (I've never been there. People in the US generally don't vacation in bizzare leftovers from the Cold War) The Chinese would probably face some of the same problems the americans faced when attacking islands in the Pacific during WWII; obstacles like tidal reefs messing up landings, sucidal resistance because there is no where to retreat to and warrens of caves. Only it would be alot harder for the Chinese because they don't have any experince in combat.


Junior Member
Finn McCool said:
China would not be well served by the tactic you described. It would make them look like a huge bully and would bring the international community (or at least good old Uncle Sam:D) rushing to the rescue.

Um... as opposed to a full scale invasion? As long as it's a military invasion I don't think it's going to look anyone look good. You described a scenario in which China moves in on the islands "peacefully". I have to question how on earth that could possibly be pulled off, assuming the tens of thousands of Taiwanese soldiers on the islands don't simultaneously mutiny against the government. I would say "moving in" would be considered unilateral action by the international community, albeit not on the same scale as a missile strike. But yeah, you're right that it would help confuse the US public.

Penghu is located pretty much smack in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, I think. (It's embarassing that I've already forgotten where it is) In other words, I never envisioned the PLA using amphibious tactics to take it, I was thinking more along the lines of airdrop. There aren't very many military forces defending it, directly capturing the airfield wouldn't be inconceivable.

I've never been to Matsu either, but I've been to Kinmen. I'm not exactly sure why it's a tourist trap either. It's interesting seeing all those fenced off areas saying "MINES" and to see the barriers in the beach, and to see the kitchen knives they make out of old (expended?) artillery shells. There's a museum there documenting the short conflict between the PRC and ROC in the 40s, and a F-86 on display... I really don't see China using an amphibious landing on any of the islands, at least an artillery or missile salvo first. Since air superiority is guaranteed in those areas I expect the PRC would use it before sending in the grunts.

Vlad Plasmius

Junior Member
It would make them look like a huge bully and would bring the international community (or at least good old Uncle Sam) rushing to the rescue.

The Kinmen and Matsu islands are right on the coast of China. Attempting to retake them would result in all-our war with China. Plus, I made a point of bringing up the fact that our agreement with Taiwan doesn't cover these islands. We aren't legally able to do anything by anybody's law.

Only it would be alot harder for the Chinese because they don't have any experince in combat.

Why is it whenever a comparison to a strategic situation involving China is made to World War II people try to find some way of saying it will be harder for them. The island-hopping campaign relied almost entirely on ground troops for many battles. Plus, many troops were placed there from sea. China can place thousands of troops there from the air. Also, the U.S. troops didn't exactly have experience either. They weren't the best in the world. Most of Europe was still better in terms of experience, training, and technology.

Plus, the war could not receive as much naval, air, and ground support. China will be able to shell the islands using artillery, bomb the islands with the airforce, and fire missiles from the sea. The Chinese would have complete superiority. The only problem would be making it so that there are few casualties on both sides. The less of a death rate the better it looks for China's government.

Finn McCool

Registered Member
Vlad Plasmius said:
Plus, I made a point of bringing up the fact that our agreement with Taiwan doesn't cover these islands. We aren't legally able to do anything by anybody's law.

Who says having an agreement has anything to do with it? That doesn't seem to matter much to the Americans lately. :nana: If the US really wanted to do something it would just say it was defending freedom and go right ahead. The real challenge would be convincing the American public why it was about to fight China over a place most Americans have never heard of and could care less about.

Good points about how easily the islands would be taken...I never really thought of just helocoptering troops in the chaos and confusion just after a huge barrage. said Kinmen had a lot of tunnels right? At Tora Bora etc. and in Saddam's Bunkers the American bombing didn't seem to do much no matter how hyped it was in the media. So maybe low tech could defeat high tech again. But it wouldn't really matter since the garrisons would still be trapped on the islands. They would simply be overrun no matter how effective or ineffective the bombardment was. (my WWII analogy works there)

Forget my "occupy peacefully comment"...I sort of know what I was trying to say but it didn't really come out right:(


Junior Member
It sounds to me that if China were to invade these islands, or even 'reclaim' them, the international backblast would most certantly be signifigant. And beleve me, I realize that probably wins the award for Understatement of the Month.

It seems unlikely that China would have anything to do with these small islands unless it was not worried about causing a full scale war in the Pacific. Even if these islands are not part of the Taiwan-U.S agreement, it would definately be seen as an act of agression by China. As such, Taiwan might insist that, even though the islands are not covered by this agreement, it is not within the realm of impossibility to assume that Taiwan could try for an apeal for more suppourt or even assistance in an open war against China, on the grounds that it is clear indication of a threat against the home islands. The United States it's self might even initiate a war on it's own in on a similar basis. This possibilty is remote. Not impossible but likely improbable to my knowlidge.

However, the situation is a sticky one at best.

Finn McCool

Registered Member
I think that at this point any sort of war in the Taiwan Strait is pretty unlikely. Especially if it is as inconclusive as just snatching a few little islands. The only way I can see this whole thing starting is if something happens in China like what happened in 1989? when the Soviet union was collapsing. Hardline communists in the Politburo and army tried to stage a coup and save the Soviet Union but failed. It could happen in China if some people in the Communist Party thought that the Party was loosening its grip to much and decided to act. But even that is not really foreseeable as the party is still in absolute control. Read some comments Hu Jintao made sometime this week in some speech he made. It sounds less like Deng and more like Mao...

Anyway, the international community would react with panic to any disruption of the status quo in the Strait so I don't think this situation will happen anytime soon.


Junior Member
In any hypotheticals that I propose between Taiwan and China, generally I don't factor US involvement because it's too much of a swing factor.

In other words, straight Taiwan vs China scenario, without factoring international backlash. Of course, the only way I could get away with this kind of hypothetical is if China's economic power gets so strong in the future that nobody dares say anything.

That being said, taking the islands or threatening Taiwan using the people on them as hostages would be a plausible tactic to be employed by the PRC. As of the current technological and numerical situation, China would have a hard time taking Taiwan without suffering substantial casualties itself, and picking off the islands would be the safest way to do it. The internal Taiwanese conflict would no doubt be fierce, as even if most people see themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese, they're not exactly willing to fight a battle that is (relatively) pointless, seeing as the PRC would prevail in the end.

I propose this scenario mostly as an alternative to a full scale invasion of "mainland" Taiwan. (That's what the people on the outlying islands call Taiwan), or a action preceding the invasion. I mean, if you are the President of Taiwan, what are you going to do? Tell the troops to fight and inevitably die? Or concede and let China occupy the islands? There are also many civilians on the islands, how would they react? Either way they'd be in a sticky situation, on one hand they'll probably die in a missile strike, on the other hand they'd be the newest citizens of the PRC.

In all likelihood, the public would demand that the President concede to Chinese demands, considering that generally the Taiwanese are pretty divided regarding a conflict with China.

Of course, once a Chinese aircraft carrier is factored in these islands would probably be a non-factor military wise, as China could just ignore them and attack from the east.