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Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
The Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, also called the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis, was a conflict that took place between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) governments in which the PRC was accused by Taiwan of shelling the islands of Matsu and Quemoy first in the Taiwan Strait.
It started with the 823 Artillery Bombardment (八二三炮戰) at 5:30PM on August 23, 1958, when People's Liberation Army forces began an intense artillery bombardment of the Quemoy. ROC forces in Quemoy dug in and returned fire. In the subsequent bombardment roughly 400 ROC troops were killed and an unknown number on the PRC side.
This was a continuation of the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, which had started immediately after the Korean War. Chiang Kai Shek had began to build on the two islands of Matsu and Quemoy. In 1954, Taiwan shelled the PRC focusing most of the attack on Quemoy. In response the People's Liberation Army (PLA) began shelling Quemoy and Matsu.
The Eisenhower Administration responded to Taiwan's request for aid according to its obligations in the 1954 US-ROC defense treaty by reinforcing US naval units and ordering US naval vessels to help the Nationalist government protect Quemoy's supply lines.
This situation in 1958 continued for 44 days and took appoximately 1,000 lives. Faced with a stalemate, the PRC called a unilateral ceasefire on October 6 at the urging of the Soviet Union. Beijing issued a “Message to the Compatriots in Taiwan” in the name of Defense Minister Peng Dehuai, however the message was actually drafted by Mao Zedong. The message called for a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue and called for all Chinese to unite against the "American plot" to divide China.
Afterwards, both sides continued to bombard each other with shells containing propaganda leaflets on alternate days of the week. This strange informal arrangement continued until the normalization of ties between the US and PRC in 1979.
The question of "Matsu and Quemoy" became an issue in the 1960 American Presidential election when Richard Nixon accused John F. Kennedy of being unwilling to commit to using nuclear weapons if the People's Republic of China invaded the Nationalist outposts.
The PRC fired around 450,000 shells at the Quemoy islands in the conflict. The shells have become a natural resource of steel for the local economy. Since the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Quemoy has become famous for its production of cleavers made from PRC bomb shells. A blacksmith in Quemoy generally produces 60 cleavers from one bomb shell. Tourists often purchase Quemoy Cleavers as souvenirs together with other local products.
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