Against the backdrop of the recall motion initiated by the opposition, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) emphasized yesterday that he is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and called on opposition parties to support the long-delayed arms procurement package.
"Everybody knows that the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces because it is clearly stipulated in Article 36 of the Constitution," he said. "But exactly what does that mean?"
Quoting words attributed to former US president John F. Kennedy in the Hollywood movie Thirteen Days, Chen said that all military chains of command end with the president.
"That is the meaning of the leader of the armed forces," Chen said.
"To be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces is my constitutional duty and the sacred mission vested in me by the people. For that reason, I am willing to be on duty 365 days of the year without any holidays," Chen said during an inspection of troops on the islands of Kinmen and Tatan yesterday.
The president had originally planned to conduct the visit last Thursday, but was forced to cancel because of bad weather.
Chen said that over the past six years, he had attached great importance to upgrading the combat readiness of the armed forces and "nationalizing" the military.
In a country that only recently made the transition from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, Chen said it was important to make the military realize that it should be loyal to the country and its people, rather than a particular party or individual.
Chen expressed regret over opposition parties' continued boycotting of the arms procurement package, which has been bogged down in the legislature for two years.
"We want to strengthen our defensive capabilities to safeguard peace, not start a war," he said. "Only if there is peace in the Taiwan Strait can Taiwan enjoy sustainable development. Peace, however, is not a free lunch."
Taiwan would have more leverage to negotiate with China for cross-strait peace and regional security if it possessed a stronger military, he said.
Despite the opposition parties' obstruction of the arms budget, Chen said that his administration was determined to maintain national security and regional stability by increasing the defense budget to 2.85 percent of GDP by next year and 3 percent of GDP by 2008.
Later yesterday, Chen, when receiving members of the Taiwan Society at the Presidential Office, said he respected responses to his two-hour public address to the nation on Tuesday in response to the recall motion.
"I've told the public what I know and what I should be held responsible for. I'll now let the people be the judge," he said.
Chen said it had been a shaky and bumpy road over the past two years since he won re-election in 2004.
"There are some people who refuse to recognize me as the president of Taiwan. They refuse to address me as the president, but refer to me with my full name as if they were calling their child," he said. "It doesn't matter to me personally, but it is a serious matter that a duly elected head of state is not recognized by particular persons and groups."
Chen added that it seemed the problem did not have an answer and that he did not know when it would end.
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