The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday refuted a media report that alleged the ministry had removed military attache titles from officers stationed in the US because of external pressure.
“The news report was wrong because the title of ‘attache’ was canceled long ago when Taiwan and the US ended official diplomatic ties in 1979,” MND spokeswoman Major General Lisa Chi (池玉蘭) said yesterday in response to the Chinese-language United Daily News report yesterday that Taiwan’s Military Representative Organization in Washington had quietly eliminated the title of “military attache” in its organization.
The Military Representative Organization has a major general chief, a major general vice chief, two colonels from the army and the air force, and a captain from the Navy, making up the attache posts.
The removal of the titles was not the result of pressure from the US or China, but came on the suggestion of the MND itself, the report said, adding that although Taiwan has no formal diplomatic ties with the US, Taiwan’s military attaches are still allowed there.
Chi said the title “military attache” is only used when two countries have diplomatic relations.
“In Taiwan, the term ‘attache’ is an unofficial title. Its official name in the Military Representative Organization is ‘junior division chief,’” said Chi, adding that because Taiwan’s overseas embassies and representative offices only have the titles of division chief and secretary, the MND in July changed the title of junior division chiefs to “secretary” to incorporate the title with the representative office.
The change does not result in any downgrading, she said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), head of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, was unconvinced.
“Didn’t those responsible for decision making at the national defense ministry know anything about the consequence of the move? It belittles our sovereignty,” Lin said, calling the MND’s decision a “foolish” move that failed to consider the political and diplomatic consequences.
He said it took Taiwan a lot of effort to convince the US to allow it to keep the attache posts after formal diplomatic relations were cut in 1979.
“The Chinese Communists tried in vain for years to get Washington to abolish our military attache posts in the US, and I don’t understand why the defense ministry would agree to the removal of those titles,” Lin said.