Defense chief backs coup allegation

FAILED MUTINY?:The defense minister said that he had been approached by pan-blue supporters and asked to admit himself into a hospital to clear the way for a coup d'etat

By Jimmy Chuang and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Wed, Mar 22, 2006 - Page 1

The nation's top military leader yesterday threw his weight behind claims of a coup plot by pan-blue supporters after the bitterly disputed presidential election in 2004.

During a legislative hearing, Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said that some military personnel had approached him and asked him to feign sickness and step aside so that they could organize a coup against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

On Monday, a second hearing began at the Taiwan High Court in a suit filed by former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) against Chen Shui-bian. They claim that he defamed them by asserting that there had been an attempted coup d'etat following their defeat in the election.

At Monday's hearing, Chen's lawyer showed the judge classified documents that he claimed proved the coup attempt.

He claimed that the classified documents clearly record persons, happenings, times, locations and evidence of the coup attempt.

The Liberty Times, a Chinese-language newspaper and the sister paper of the Taipei Times, yesterday reported that the classified documents said an "incumbent military adviser to the Presidential Office" and a former chief of the general staff had talked to Lee Jye and asked him to step aside on March 24, 2004.

Lee Jye, who was Chief of General Staff at the time, yesterday confirmed these reports.

"Some unidentified military personnel came to me and asked me to `play sick' so they could carry out their plans to oust the president. But, when I refused immediately, they just walked away," Lee said. "These people said that they came to me on behalf of `certain group of people.'"

However, Lee said that neither former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan (連戰) nor People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) had approached him or sent anyone to see him on their behalf. But he said he was quite sure that the military personnel who came to him were pan-blue supporters.

"However, I couldn't say whether these military personnel came to me on behalf of Lien and Soong," Lee added.

The minister made his remarks after being questioned by KMT Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) on the legislative floor yesterday. Sun said that he had read the newspaper reports that some high-ranking military personnel had approached Lee and asked him to step aside by "pretending to be sick" so that the military could mutiny against the president by refusing to obey his orders.

Chen had previously claimed that high-ranking pan-blue military personnel had tried to carry out a `soft coup' after the 2004 presidential election, and that the effort was encouraged by Lien and Soong.

In November 2004, the president said that some retired generals had tried to convince high-ranking military officials to resign or fake illness and check into the hospital after the 2004 presidential election.

According to Chen, the purpose of this was to create social instability to negate the legitimacy of his re-election.

Then defense minister Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) submitted his resignation immediately after the presidential election citing an eye disease.

DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) had said at a press conference that three admirals and eight lieutenant generals had been asked to resign or pretend they were ill after the presidential election. However, no military officials followed Tang and offered their resignations, which Lee Wen-chung attributed to the successful nationalization of the military.

News reports had reported that three deputy chiefs of the general staff at the time -- military adviser to the president Admiral Fei Hung-po (費鴻波), MND deputy-minister Admiral Chu Kai-sheng (朱凱生) and Chief of the Air force General Liu Kuei-li (劉貴立) were the key targets that had been asked to resign.

Then Deputy Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-mi (陳肇敏) was also reported to have been encouraged to resign. Chen Chao-mi joined the pan-blue controlled March 19 Shooting Truth Investigation Special Committee shortly after he retired from the military.

News reports also alleged that Tang had summoned a number of high-ranking military officials to his residence to discuss the matter, before he announced his resignation.

In November 2004, Former defense minister Chiang Chung-ling (蔣仲苓) asked the president to confront him in public in order to clarify accusations that he had planned a "soft coup d'etat" after the March 20 presidential election.