Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Coup? What coup? MND official says

LACK OF INFORMATION The Ministry of National Defense's spokesman said that he didn't know anything about a reported move to oust the president

By Lin chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday that the military has sworn allegiance to the country in accordance with the Constitution and that there was no danger of a coup d'etat, nor was there any information possessed by the military suggesting that any senior officers had intended to take part in such an act.

Meanwhile, President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent comments about a "soft coup d'etat" continued to raise a furor in the political arena.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said that three serving generals and eight lieutenant generals had been targeted by retired officers to either resign or fake illness in order to add to the controversy following the presidential election.

Although the government is repeating that the pan-blue parties attempted to launch a "soft coup d'etat" following the March 20 election, no actual evidence has yet been provided.

The ministry tried to keep a low profile yesterday regarding the accusation, but MND spokesman Major General Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生) was questioned repeatedly by reporters about whether the military had any intelligence about the issue.

Huang simply stressed the loyalty of the military to the country, but refused to comment on whether the MND has proceeded with an internal investigation. He also refused to confirm whether or not any retired generals had contacted high-ranking officials in the wake of the election.

"The military's stance on its allegiance to the country is positively certain. The so-called `soft coup d'etat' is something the military is not familiar with, nor does the MND understand the source of the information coming from some of these legislators," Huang said.

But Huang did attempt to add an interpretation of Chen's statements: "The goal of President Chen was to confirm the depoliticization of the military by pointing out that some people may have attempted to persuade serving generals and officers, but that the officers were unmoved. There were no resignations from any generals after the election."

"The president also did not specify whether the officers were generals and lieutenant-generals," Huang said. "Retired senior officers are not under the control of the MND. As for serving officers having being contacted [by retired officers], the MND has no related information on this. Questions about this issue should be directed to the legislators who have made the claims."

Huang's vague comments triggered a burst of complaints from reporters, which eventually led to a shouting match between one reporter and Huang.

As to who exactly it was that supposedly tried to persuade military leaders to resign in order to cause havoc after the presidential election, a source from the military disclosed -- under condition of anonymity -- that the president was not referring to former minister of national defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), but rather a different retired senior officer.

The source said that this officer was once trusted by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), and Chen also had high expectations of him in his first term. When asked if this retired officer was former defense minister Chiang Chung-ling (蔣仲苓), the source was not willing to comment.

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