Mon, May 31, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers line up to berate MND

FOUL UP Legislators find it unacceptable that the ministry goofed in announcing the coordinates of the middle line of the Taiwan Strait and are demanding a review

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators questioned the professionalism of the Ministry of National Defense yesterday after it gave out incorrect information on the middle line of the Taiwan Strait.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) last Wednesday confirmed the existence of the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, a strategic line to keep Taiwanese and Chinese military forces apart.

Lee said the line ran from 23? north latitude, 119?east longitude to 27?north latitude, 123? east longitude, as defined by the US in 1951.

But local media said two days ago that Lee's information was wrong. They said the line as defined by Lee ran along the west coast of Taiwan rather than through the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

The media said that the correct location should have been one degree west of the one given by Lee.

News reports said one degree amounts to a difference of 100km and condemned the ministry for making the error.

The ministry issued a correction, saying the line should run from 26? 30 minutes north latitude, 121?23 minutes east longitude to 24? 50 minutes north latitude, 119?59 minutes east longitude, to 23? 17 minutes north latitude, 117? 51 minutes east longitude.

Ministry spokesman Major-General Huang Suei-sheng (黃穗生) said the mistake might have been made because the ministry's staff were rushing to prepare the information for Wednesday's question-and-answer session.

The TSU caucus said it would demand the ministry make a special report on the mistake.

"When Lee came to the legislature to be questioned on Wednesday his staff already knew he might be asked about the middle line and prepared a map in advance. But it was a surprise that they should still make such a mistake. The staff's professionalism is in doubt," said TSU Legislator Ho Min-hao (何敏豪), a member of the National Defense Committee.

"Lee gave out the information on Wednesday, but the ministry did not issue a correction until Saturday. There might be something suspicious going on here, and the TSU caucus will demand that the Ministry of Defense offer a report on this mistake," Ho said.

"It is a grievous mistake of the staff to allow the minister to make such an error on such an important issue," DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) said the mistake was unthinkable.

"When Lee was questioned on Wednesday, he was accompanied by several other generals, and no one spotted the mistake. The middle line should be as familiar to these generals as their own names, yet the ministry still made the mistake when reporting to the legislature," Lu said.

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