MND defends continuation of conscripts

By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday defended its decision to continue to enlist conscripts to serve one year in the military next year, saying that it was made to maintain the defense capabilities of the nation. The decision to continue conscripting males born before Jan. 1, 1994 was made after careful consideration to cope with current enemy threats, rising tensions in the region and the need for the nation’s military forces to be at a high state of combat readiness, Chen Cheng-chi (陳正棋), a MND official, yesterday told reporters. “After an overall evaluation, we found there would be a gap between the soldier numbers we will have and the soldiers we need to defend the country next year,” Chen said. Therefore, the military needs to continue to enlist a total of 23,100 conscripts from the 53,819 eligible Taiwanese men who were born before Jan. 1, 1994 next year, he said. Speaking during the same event, Hsu Yen-pu (徐衍璞), chief of the MND’s Recruitment Center, said the latest announcement will not affect those conscripts born after January 1994.

They no longer need to undergo one year’s military service. Instead, they will only need to conduct four months of military training, Hsu confirmed. The MND officials made the comments amid criticism that the Ma Ying-jeou administration has once again flip-flopped on its previously announced schedule in its ongoing push to transform the R.O.C. Armed Forces into an all-volunteer force. The MND originally announced in March that the last batch of conscripts born before January 1994 will be conscripted into the military by the end of this year. Those conscripts born before January 1994 who have failed to complete their required one-year compulsory service in the military before the end of this year will serve one year’s alternative service instead, it added. However, in a late-night press release on Tuesday, the MND changed its original schedule by saying that it will continue to enlist conscripts born before 1994 starting next year to serve in the military.

Yet Another Failure: Opposition The move was harshly criticized by opposition lawmakers who accused the ruling Ma administration of once again breaking its promise to transform the nation’s armed forces into an all-volunteer force. Defending the military’s late-night statement, Hsu yesterday said it is the responsibility of the MND to make the decision to maintain the nation’s combat readiness during the transitional period before the Taiwan military transforms into a fully voluntary one. He also denied that the decision was made due to sluggish volunteer recruitment. A total of 11,865 men and women have joined the military so far this year. The number is close to the MND’s original annual target of 14,000, he noted. Asked if the MND will continue to enlist conscripts born before 1994 in 2017 should it find there is a need to do so, Hsu said the military would not rule out the possibility. This is not the first time the Ma administration has been accused of “flip-flopping” in its military transformation policy. The military originally announced in late 2011 that the R.O.C. Armed Forces would be transformed into a fully voluntary service from the existing conscription system by Jan. 1, 2015. The MND, however, in September 2013, announced that it would postpone the abolishment of the conscription system by two years to 2017 due to sluggish volunteer recruitment numbers. To boost recruitment, the government has launched a series of incentives and salary raise programs over the past two years.