Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US to assign military to Taipei office

REVERSAL Active-duty military officers will be assigned to AIT, taking over from contractors and marking a departure from previous US policy

AFP , TAIPEI

In a reversal of its long-standing policy, the US will post military officers to its mission in Taipei for the first time since 1979, leading defense journal Jane's Defense Weekly said.

From the middle of next year, active duty military personnel will replace civilian contractors at Washington's effective diplomatic mission in Taipei, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the weekly said in an article that will be published on Wednesday.

US Army Colonel Al Wilner, a former helicopter pilot, will be the first to arrive, Jane's Taipei correspondent Wendell Minnick told reporters yesterday.

Change

The move marks a crucial reversal of the US defense department's long-standing policy of not assigning military officers to the country, the weekly said.

"Washington has become less concerned over any potential protest from Beijing amid growing unease over China's military ambitions in the Asia Pacific region," it said.

With a lack of diplomatic ties, military affairs between Washington and Taipei have been handled by contractors working for the US Defense Intelligence Agency and Defense Security Co-ordination Agency.

Jane's says the change results from a bill passed by the US Congress in 2002, allowing for the posting of US military personnel to Taiwan if it is deemed to be "in the national interest of the US."

Three-year Terms

US government employees, including military personnel, are currently required to retire before they can be hired by the US mission in Taipei.

US personnel assigned to the mission will not wear uniforms and will serve for three years, compared with the two-year term offered to civilian contractors, the weekly says.

The change should also cut costs as civilian employees are higher paid.

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