Sat, Mar 02, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Chen says war would hurt both sides

CROSS-STRAIT CONFLICT The president says exchanges and dialogue are needed to promote trust between the two sides and avert a situation that would benefit no one

By Lin Miao-jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday that military conflict between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is against the interests of both sides and that "the primary goal of the military is to maintain the peace."

He added that, to that end, the government hopes to establish a mechanism to promote trust between the two sides' militaries by means of exchanges and dialogue.

A war between the two sides, Chen said, would result in "jade and stone being burned together," an idiom from classical Chinese meaning "bad for both sides."

Chen made the remarks during an address to military personnel at a ceremony marking changes to the military structure which took effect yesterday when the National Defense Law (國防法) and amendments to the Defense Ministry Organizational Law (國防部組織法) came into force.

The two laws were introduced to unify the military's command and administrative structures and to establish the supremacy of the minister of defense in the military command structure. It has entailed changes to the names and structures of 25 military units.

Chen presented each unit's new official flag and seal to a representative of the unit yesterday.

Chen also reminded the audience that the two laws have consolidated the national defense system and "instilled the ethos of democracy in the military."

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) also commented on the new military command structure yesterday, telling legislators during an interpellation session in the Legislative Yuan that henceforth it will be the minister of national defense, rather than the chief of the general staff, who will make the final decision on any attack in the event of an invasion or threatened invasion of Taiwan.

As the head of the military's command structure, the minister of defense will now replace the chief of the general staff in issuing the orders of the state president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the event of war.

"Faced with the situation between the two sides [of the Strait], the armed services have to prevent war, and a decision to launch an attack should be decided by the minister on the basis of calm and rational analysis," Tang said.

Chen has stated many times his belief that the Ministry of National Defense should be headed by a civilian who has not served in a professional capacity in the military.

Some legislators voiced concerns yesterday that a defense minister without professional military service may lack the expertise.

PFP lawmaker Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) said that Tang is familiar with the military and would be capable of handling the outbreak of war, but questioned whether a minister without a military career behind him would be capable of doing so.

Tang responded, "More training would be required for a civilian without a military background to take the post of minister of national defense."

Previously, the chief of the general staff was the senior military figure in the event of war.

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