Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 3 News List

US team praises combat strength of nation's marines

HIGH MARKS The good words are being used by local commanders to fight off attempts to cut by half the number of personnel in the marines

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The marine corps got high ratings in the latest assessment of combat strength by the US military, a development which gives the corps leverage against other services' attempts to cut it by half.

Marine Corps commander Lieutenant-General Hsu Tai-sheng (徐台生) confirmed the results of the US military's most recent assessment of combat strength on Wednesday as he received a group of journalists at the corps' Kaohsiung headquarters.

The US assessment team came to Taiwan last fall to gain an understanding of the combat strength of the marine corps and the navy.

"We have not received an official report from the US military assessment team about what they found in Taiwan. But we have known some of the results because of an informal report provided by them," Hsu said.

"The results were quite positive. We are happy to see the development," he said.

Hsu was not commander when the US conducted its assessment, as he only assumed his post in June.

Former commander Lieutenant-General Chi Lin-lien (季麟連) was the man who led the force to win recognition from the US. Chi is now a deputy commander of the combined logistics command.

But Hsu has reason to be happy since it looks less likely the corps will be downsized by half in the next wave of services-wide personnel streamlining.

Hsu declined to comment on whether the corps has escaped the downsizing because of praise from the US.

"The marine corps is an offensive force. Offense is the best defense. Some of our defense leaders, such as Vice Minister of Defense Lin Chong-Pin (林中斌), do have such an understanding," Hsu said.

Proposals for the marine corps to be cut by half came from other services, mainly the army, while chief of the general staff Admiral Li Chieh (李傑), though of the navy, did not oppose it, defense officials said.

The army argued that it could take the place of the marine corps since it is capable of doing many of the jobs special to the corps such as amphibious landing.

The argument, though disputed by the marine corps, did have sway since the army controls the majority of the military's human and material resources.

But attempts to make the marine corps bear the brunt of the next wave of personnel streamlining, which is to begin next year, have waned since the US military gave the marines high ratings.

The marine corps, now consisting of less than 20,000 people, cannot afford to suffer any large loss of personnel. It is expected to become the country's last hope in a war since it has the ability to counter-attack via amphibious landings.

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