Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Ma outlines plan to phase out conscription by 2014

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday put forward a timetable for replacing the existing system of compulsory military service with enlistment within four to six years if he is elected next year.

"The biggest advantage of an all-volunteer force is that the majority of male citizens of conscriptable age won't be drafted. This means they can make a contribution to society in the fields of business, industry and especially in high-tech [fields]," Ma said, unveiling his defense white paper at a press conference in Kaohsiung.

Ma said he would increase the recruitment of high-quality and self-motivated enlisted servicemen year- on-year with the draft system to be phased out by 2014 at the latest.

He also promised to raise the basic salary of enlisted servicemen to twice the minimum wage, about NT$10,000 higher than the wage service personnel receive now.

Under the plan, male of conscriptable age would still be required to undertake three months of `military education training' to qualify as reservists in the armed forces, while this would be optional for females.

Among the goals of Ma's defense policy are building a new professional national army and preventing war in the Taiwan Strait.

Saying that his defense policy is governed by the principle of "defensive strategy," Ma said he would advance cross-strait reconciliation with the backing of the country's military strength and would never develop nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

Ma said he would ask China to remove the missiles targeted at Taiwan and would negotiate with Beijing to establish a mechanism to create military trust and conduct military exchanges as well as sign a peace agreement. He did not elaborate.

Ma also vowed to make the Taiwan Strait a nuclear-free zone and to abide by Resolution 1540 adopted by the UN Security Council in 2004, on the non-proliferation of biological and chemical weapons.

Ma said that annual military expenditure would be no less than 3 percent of GDP.

"As China has been modernizing its military, we have to procure advanced weapons from other countries to ensure Taiwan's security," Ma said.

Despite the fact that the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) defense budget request was cut by the KMT and the People First Party in the legislature, Ma yesterday slammed the government for slashing the budget which he said had led to military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait.

"Since the DPP came to power, it has pushed for de jure independence in a provocative way and greatly reduced the defense budget year by year. Defense spending accounted for only 2.27 percent of the country's GDP in 2005," Ma said.

Commenting on Ma's defense white paper at a separate setting yesterday, DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), said it was "contradictory" and "uncreative."

While Ma proposed to phase out conscription within four to six years and replace it with all-volunteer armed services, Hsieh said that DPP policy has for some time been geared toward reducing the proportion of conscripts in the armed forces.

It is also DPP policy that the defense budget should represent 3 percent of GDP, a goal which will be achieved naturally when all soldiers are recruited through enlistment, Hsieh said.

"Ma's proposals only indicate that he knows little about the issue," Hsieh said.

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