A group of military personnel is planning to withdraw from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) because of their anger at the party's continued blocking of arms procurement requests, media reports said yesterday.
A report in the Chinese-language newspaper the Liberty Times, the Taipei Times' sister newspaper, said that an unspecified number of military personnel wrote a joint letter distributed to high-level Ministry of National Defense (MND) officials, complaining that they have been too soft in dealing with the arms bill in the legislature.
The personnel, who did not identify themselves by name, also said in the letter that they are planning to collectively withdraw from the KMT.
"We are disappointed with KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (
In a press statement yesterday, the MND Military Spokesman's Office said it did not approve of the letter, and that the military's stance of remaining neutral and firmly observing the nationalization of the armed forces in accordance with the Constitution will not change.
However, it added that the letter's protest against the continued blocking of the arms bill was in line with mainstream public opinion.
"The Ministry of National Defense respects the opinion and choice of military personnel, but does not support such actions," the press statement said. "The MND pledges loyalty to the nation and maintains neutrality in politics, so any actions involving politics should be avoided."
But the defense ministry also said it will respect any "personal" decisions that military personnel make, and that it will not intervene in matters pertaining to any military servicemember's political affiliations.
They said that since Taiwan's armed forces were nationalized, no political activities have been allowed in the barracks, meaning that the defense ministry has maintained a hands-off attitude toward servicemembers' political stances.
MND officials, however, lamented that lawmakers of the opposition pan-blue camp of the KMT and People First Party, which together hold a slight majority in the Legislative Yuan, have blocked the arms procurement bill from being put on the legislature's agenda 42 times.
Quoting a recent public opinion poll, the officials said that more than half of the public supports the arms procurement bill for the purchase of three PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-powered submarines and 12 P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircraft from the US, and that more than 70 percent of the respondents think that the Legislative Yuan should debate and pass the bill as soon as possible.
The MND originally designed a NT$480 billion (US$14.5 billion) special budget to buy three weapons systems from the US. But it decided to delay the purchase of Patriot missile batteries until 2007 because pan-blue parties have insisted that the referendum held last March in tandem with the presidential poll was a public "veto" of the purchase. Pan-blue legislators had said according to the Referendum Law (
Last week, the ministry decided to include the 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in the regular defense budget, which would leave the eight diesel-electric submarines, worth NT$299 billion (US$9 billion) as the only item paid for through the special budget.
Meanwhile, KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma noted, however, that the KMT has no way of contacting them because the letter did not contain any signatures. He added that they are welcomed to come forward and talk with KMT officials about their grievance.
Ma, who doubles as the mayor of Taipei, said that the KMT has made its stance on the arms procurement bill very clear, stressing that Taiwan needs to maintain sufficient military strength to defend itself.
Noting that the KMT has never objected to arms procurement, Ma said that the KMT is opposed to "cash-for-friendship" purchase plans or "unreasonable" procurement plans.
"No military members, regardless of their political affiliation, should support an arms procurement bill if it is not drafted based on professional assessments and if it cannot genuinely meet Taiwan's defense needs," Ma said.
Since the KMT encouraged military personnel to join the party when it was in power for more than 50 years, many personnel are KMT members.
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