The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday announced it would implement an all-volunteer military system in 2013 and that Taiwanese born after 1993 would no longer have to report for one year of compulsory military service, although they would have to undergo four months of military training.
At a press conference, Deputy Minister of National Defense Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) said the legislature had approved an amendment to the Military Service Act (兵役法) on Dec. 13, providing the legal basis for the implementation of an all-volunteer military system.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced the new law on Wednesday and it took effect yesterday, Chao said.
Nationals born on or after Jan. 1, 1994, would no longer have to serve full compulsory military service, but they will still have to receive military training for four months.
Nationals born on or before Dec. 31, 1993, have to undergo compulsory military service for one year.
He said conscripts who take military training courses at university could get 30 days deducted from their four-month military training.
However, the MND, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Interior would cooperate to carefully review whether those courses could indeed count as military training in the armed forces, he added.
Chao said the MND had decided to implement the all-volunteer system in 2013 because precise calculations showed the number of conscripts entering the military that year would push the number of military personnel above the quota.
Asked why the MND announced the decision just days prior to the presidential election, Chao said the ministry submitted the proposal for an all-volunteer system to the Executive Yuan in March 2009 and then prepared to implement the system as per normal procedure, therefore the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the presidential election.
Bai Chieh-lung (白捷隆), a human resources official with the MND, told the press conference the ministry hoped that by the end of 2014 all retired military personnel in the regular armed forces would be replaced by volunteer soldiers.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the timing of the announcement was electoral manipulation.
However, KMT Legislator Herman Shuai (帥化民) applauded the policy, saying “the announcement was better made sooner, rather than later.”
“All young people are waiting for the decision to be made so that they can start planning their careers. Nobody benefited when the decision was left hanging, neither the people nor the military,” Shuai said.
Shuai dismissed concerns that the announcement was timed to favor Ma in the election.
“To implement voluntary military service was a policy set in stone. People all know that. I doubt that many people would change their vote because of this,” he said.
“There are always pros and cons to every policy, but the implementation of a voluntary military service is a world-wide tendency,” KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said.
Lin said the timing of the announcement was not an issue, because “you can’t please everyone.”
“Some people were happy with the decision that male citizens born after 1993 would be exempt from military service, but some people had complained because the policy did not apply to people born after 1992,” he said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan