The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday denied reports alleging that media coverage of a military exchange visit by Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) to Singapore had led to the suspension of all military cooperation between the two countries.
The Chinese-language United Daily News (UDN) reported that Singapore was unhappy that Kao’s visit had been made public by Taiwanese media, adding that a Singaporean colonel, who has been stationed in Taiwan with the Starlight training program, visited the ministry on Tuesday last week to read out a protest announcement before Kao.
In the protest, the city-state said the Taiwanese military should not have broken a promise that Kao’s visit would remain secret.
In an article on Feb. 15, the Chinese-language China Times quoted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) as saying that Kao was in Singapore with a military delegation to conduct secret military exchanges with their Singaporean counterparts.
The China Times report added that it was the highest level of military exchanges between the two countries in recent years, which could be seen as a significant breakthrough.
The UDN said in its report yesterday that the delegation, led by Kao and Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Liu Chen-wu (劉震武), not only met senior military officials from Singapore, but also visited military bases and inspected equipment.
The UDN said Kao felt pressure and encountered an unfriendly atmosphere after the visit was made public, but he completed the visit according to schedule and returned to Taiwan on Feb. 16.
The report said Political Warfare Department acting director-general Wang Ming-wo (王明我) was scheduled to lead a military delegation to Singapore this week, but the Singaporean government canceled the trip.
Ministry spokesman Colonel David Lo (羅紹和) said the UDN report was not based on facts.
“No Singaporean military official read out a protest announcement before Minister Kao,” Lo said.
The spokesman said both countries have a solid friendship and the ministry cherishes its close relationship with its Singaporean counterpart. However, Lo said some military cooperation programs were changing based on the requirements from both sides.
A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmaker, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed yesterday that Singapore had lodged concerns over the media disclosure, but not to Kao.
The Singaporean officer met Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) to convey his government’s concern, the legislator said.
Lo said the ministry had no comment on this.
The ministry maintains that Kao attended the Singapore Air Show and did not conduct military exchanges with Singaporean defense officials.
Under the Starlight training program, which began in 1975, Singapore sends military units to train in Taiwan because of the lack of space in the city-state.
Weighing in yesterday, DPP legislators said both Singapore and Taiwan shared some of the blame for the dispute.
Singapore has “gone too far” with its retaliation, which was disrespectful of the ministry and infringes upon Taiwan’s freedom of the press, Hsueh said.
Hsueh said she suspects Singapore’s protest was a tactic to gain leverage in bilateral negotiations for the Agreement Between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership.