US to back Honor Guard participation

GUN-SHY?:Su Chi-lin said that when he signed up for the World Drill Championships, the defense ministry was not supportive, as it was worried about objections by Beijing

By Lo Tien-pin and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sun, Sep 08, 2019 - Page 1

The US government has pledged to support the Republic of China Honor Guard’s bid to compete in the World Drill Championships in Miami in May next year, a high-ranking official said.

The development is a breakthrough for the Ministry of National Defense’s international outreach, the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that US officials indicated that their government would support Taiwan’s right to participate at the event, even if Beijing protests.

Members of the honor guard have competed at the event as individuals, including former seaman first class Su Chi-lin (蘇祈麟), who last year won fourth place for tossing and catching his rifle blindfolded, the source said.

Senior Airman Huang Shih-chen (黃士宸) this year won ninth place in the event, despite dropping his rifle after accidentally injuring himself with a bayonet, they said.

The ministry yesterday said in a statement that the honor guard would compete bearing the nation’s proper insignia and uniforms, adding that 10 members have been selected for the event.

The ministry said that it is committed to raising Taiwan’s international profile and hopes that the public will support such endeavors, adding that Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) believes that exhibition drills are a major opportunity to increase the visibility of the nation.

Su yesterday told reporters that he was happy to hear that the ministry is officially supporting the honor guard’s participation in the event, which would provide its members moral support and allow for better preparation.

When he signed up for the event on his own initiative, the ministry was not supportive, Su said.

“There was no precedent for team members to participate in international events and the ministry was worried that sending a uniformed soldier abroad could cause Beijing to object,” he said.

Since retiring from the military, he has been helping drill teams from schools in economically disadvantaged areas obtain drill rifles and training, Su said, adding that he hopes the honor guard the best.

Separately, the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee has passed a resolution calling for the Executive Yuan to increase the salaries of service members who form the honor guard.

The Cabinet had previously proposed a NT$5,000 monthly bonus for the honor guard’s regular members and NT$3,000 for alternates, less than the ministry’s proposed NT$10,000 and NT$5,000 respectively, the resolution says.

As the honor guard represents the nation at state functions, and in recognition of the accolades it has won over the years, the government should reverse its decision and follow the ministry’s original plan, it says.

Additional reporting by Huang Hsin-Po