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Mon, Jul 17, 2000 - Page 3 News List

President Chen garners support from military

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

When Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was inaugurated as the new president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces nearly two months ago, there was a sense of instability in the military, especially among a number of die-hard anti-independence military leaders.

Now the tide seems to have changed in favor of Chen, who is gaining support from military leaders, including those who were initially strongly opposed to him.

Su Chin-chiang (蘇進強), a military analyst at Nanhua University, who has close contacts with military policy makers, said support for Chen among high-ranking military officials had risen in recent weeks, but that it had not spread to all levels of the military yet.

"Overall acceptance of Chen in the armed forces is not expected to happen for some time. But for the moment, top military leaders are responding more positively to Chen," Su said.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rising support for Chen among the top brass could be put down to Chen taking the initiative with military leaders and demonstrating his concern for defense matters.

Chen started visiting military facilities on June 28 and participated in military activities, such as the just-concluded commissioning ceremony for the second combat wing of domestically-built IDFs in Tainan.

"An interaction of some sort has been achieved between Chen and military leaders at different levels through these activities. Chen did not meet opposition of any kind from any of the leaders he met during these visits. We can say a formal stability is in place in the armed forces," the defense official said.

"Some generals, who were initially reluctant to pledge loyalty to Chen because of his former pro-independence stance, have now changed their view of Chen. They may still maintain a distance in their contacts with Chen, but they no longer reject the idea of working for Chen," he said.

These generals include Army Commander-in-Chief General Chen Chen-hsiang (陳鎮湘) -- one of the first to declare that he was unwilling to work for Chen, at a meeting of the military leaders shortly after the March 18 election, the defense official said.

"National security is no doubt President Chen's top priority concern for the moment. And defense affairs are of special interest to him. What he wants to achieve in the short term is to maintain the stability in the armed forces," military analyst Su said.

"Goals for Chen in the longer term are to put into practice the landmark defense law and the organizational law for the Ministry of National Defense, which were passed early this year. Chen does not seem to be interested in taking a dominant role in the matter," Su said.

"Chen would rather leave it to a third party, preferably an inter-departmental team, so as to avoid a clash of opinions and interests in the military administrative system as represented by the defense ministry and the military command system -- as represented by the chief of the general staff and his office -- which are to be integrated," he said.

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