Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Tsai renews defense force pledge

POINT OF NO RETURN:The president visited a naval base in Yilan County where she said the nation’s path toward a self-reliant defense force would not be easy

Staff writer, with CNA

President Tsai Ing-wen, center, yesterday arrives at a naval base in Yilan County’s Suao Township.

Photo: SAM YEH, AFP

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday reiterated her administration’s determination to push for a self-reliant national defense force as she spoke on board a domestically built warship off Yilan.

Following an inspection tour of air bases in Hualien on Sunday last week — the first time in her capacity as commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces — Tsai visited a naval base in Yilan County’s Suao Township (蘇澳) and boarded the Tuo Jiang, the nation’s first locally built stealth missile corvette that was commissioned in March last year.

She said that the nation would continue to promote a policy of building its own vessels.

“In addition to enhancing naval combat capacity, it will also help the development of the shipbuilding and machinery sectors, as well as system integration,” Tsai said.

The government’s approach would be to make “demands for national defense the driving force of industrial upgrade and transformation,” Tsai said.

However, the government is bound to encounter numerous challenges in the pursuit of a self-reliant national defense force she said.

“The path is not an easy one, but there is no return,” she told officers and cadets aboard the Tuo Jiang.

She said the nation has used superior technology in the building of the Tuo Jiang and “more importantly, we have the determination to succeed.”

Tsai, accompanied by Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬), Chief of General Staff Yen De-fa (嚴德發) and National Security Council Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), said it was her first time on board the Tuo Jiang, and when the vessel sailed out of Suao, she said she “was deeply touched” to see the powerful naval vessel and the beautiful Yilan coast.

Tsai said that hoisting the flag of the commander-in-chief on the ship was an honor and responsibility.

“I am privileged to be able to safeguard our homeland and marine lifeline with all of you in the navy,” she said.

Tsai also said the Tuo Jiang is a symbol of David fighting Goliath.

On Sept. 2, 1958, in one of the major sea battles in the Taiwan Strait, a naval vessel named the Tuo Jiang was shelled by Chinese ships and 11 of its 81 crew were killed, including medical officer Chen Ke-jung (陳科榮), who continued to tend to the wounded, despite his injuries, and later died of blood loss.

Tsai also said that Taiwan is surrounded by the sea, which she described as the nation’s gateway to the world, and she encouraged everyone to learn how to protect the nation’s sea lanes.

The Tuo Jiang, with Tsai and her entourage on board, made a short cruise that lasted 25 minutes.

Tsai later inspected an army base and dined with the personnel of an infantry brigade.

She said that while the base had been freshly painted, what is more important is whether the quality of equipment is good enough.

“Just painting and mowing the lawn [in anticipation of an inspection] will not make the military better,” she said, adding that the government would continue to push for national defense reforms.

A good combat force needs a good system, high efficiency and good morale, she said.

Tsai has inspected the air force, army and navy since taking office on May 20 in a show of balanced attention to the three forces.

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