Mon, May 24, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan says no marines to go to Iraq

DIFFERENCE OF OPINION The government was less than enthusiastic about a plan by its supporters in the US Congress for it to send troops to aid the US

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

The Presidential Office and the Cabinet yesterday dismissed suggestions that the nation was considering sending troops to Iraq after two members of the US House of Representatives presented a resolution that would require the US president to ask Taiwan to send marines to the recently invaded country.

"As far as I know, it was just a proposal," Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said. "Up until now, the US government has never made such a request nor have we received any message from the US government in this regard."

The main aim of the nation's armed forces is to defend the country, Chen said, and the Cabinet has no plans to elevate its military cooperation with the US.

"As a member of the international community, we've dedicated ourselves to anti-terrorism, post-war reconstruction and humanitarian aid," he said. "I believe the communication channels with the US military have been smooth and interaction frequent, which has had a positive impact on security across the Taiwan Strait and regional stability."

Presidential Office Spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday refused to elaborate on the proposal, saying only that the US government has never discussed the issue of dispatching troops to Iraq with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Two pro-Taiwan US House members introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for US President George W. Bush to ask Taiwan to deploy marines to Iraq.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher, co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, and Representative Jim Ryun, also a member of the Taiwan Caucus, said in the resolution that Taiwan was studying the feasibility of sending up to 5,000 marines to Iraq to fight alongside US-led forces.

As a fellow democracy, the resolution said, Taiwan shares the US' passion for promoting freedom, democracy and human rights around the world; and its marines have a deserved reputation throughout the Far East for their high level of training and motivation.

Since the US is requesting other countries to send ground forces to Iraq to join international coalition forces in the global war on terrorism, Bush should "request President Chen to deploy Taiwanese marines to Iraq," said the resolution, which has been referred to the House Committee on International Relations for debate.

Ryun, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also introduced a draft amendment to a national defense authorization act for next year that considerably raises the level of military exchanges between the US and Taiwan.

Taiwan has reportedly offered to donate US$200 million to help with Iraq's post-war reconstruction during the US-led war against Iraq. The US government reportedly turned down the donation for fear of angering China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Taiwan has participated twice in US wars overseas since 1949, according to the April issue of the Taiwan military monthly, Defense International. The nation sent interpreters to interrogate Chinese prisoners of war at the end of the Korean War (1950-1953). It also sent special troops to assist US forces during the Vietnam War (1954-1975).

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