What a defense minister we have!

By Joe Hung

Taiwan has a defense minister who doesn’t know what he is doing and what he has to do to defend the country. He is General Feng Shih-kuan, President Tsai Ing-wen’s minister of national defense. An Air Force general, Feng gave the third arm of defense “full marks” for performance in his testimony at a Legislative Yuan Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee interpellation meeting last Friday — despite an amphetamine scandal at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base, which was founded with American support near Taichung during the Vietnam War for the U.S. air force.

General Feng had notably awarded himself “100 for 100” after a string of scandals including an accidental firing of a home-made surface-to-surface missile that did not explode but sank a fishing boat near the Pescadores or Penghu, killing its skipper. He told reporters he would give his air force “the same marks,” despite a widening drug scandal.

More than 70 vinyl packs of amphetamine, 21 of them empty though with residues, were found two days in a row scattered near the base command and the guard house at the entrance of the air base late last month. The amount of amphetamines seized was about 50 grams, worth NT$225,000 or US$7,500 on the black market. More than 2,000 officers and men working on the base were tested, of whom 27 tested positive for Schedule 1 drugs including heroine — not amphetamine, a Schedule 2 drug. Taichung district prosecutors should try to solve this mystery. Feng said drug abuse was a problem plaguing not only his ministry but other Cabinet agencies as well. He cited a Ministry of Education report on students testing positive for amphetamine and other drugs at a rate 58 times as high as that of officers and men of the armed forces. That comparison is unfair, because the denominators used by the two ministries in the tests differed. Even if the same number of students and military personnel was used, the rates could not be fairly compared. The reason is that only those suspected were tested.

On the same day, General Feng reiterated Taiwan’s stance against installing the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which South Korea will deploy on orders from the United States to tighten the containment of the People’s Republic of China. At an interpellation meeting, Feng said Taiwan “should not be involved in other nations’ wars or make pointless sacrifices in conflicts between two global powers because our officers and men fight only to protect the nation and its sovereignty.” Legislators asked Feng what he would do if the United States stationed a Marine guard at its new American Institute in Taiwan office in Taipei and after the THAAD missiles were deployed in South Korea as part of a plan formed by Uncle Sam, Japan and South Korea to get China to cooperate. It’s a very stupid question, and his answer is equally, if not more, stupid.

Uncle Sam hasn’t decided, and will never decide, to send leathernecks to Taiwan to “protect” his AIT office in Taipei. There is no reason why such a question had to be asked and why the general had to answer. Neither has Washington asked to install the THAAD in Taiwan, or will it ever ask. Has Taiwan asked for it?