Tue, Sep 30, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Ministry denies it will scrap Kinmen, Matsu commands

CNA , TAIPEI

The Ministry of National Defense denied a media report yesterday that the defense commands on Kinmen and Matsu will be phased out in five years as part of the military's restructuring plan.

"The report is not true," the ministry said in a press release, adding that the restructuring plan has never included such a proposal.

The statement said the army will maintain its current structural framework characterized by five operational regions plus the Kinmen and Matsu defense commands.

Under a 10-year troop-reduction plan, the ministry has withdrawn servicemen from two other islands -- Tungsha and Nansha -- in the Pratas and Spratly groups in the South China Sea. The two islands are now being defended by coast guard personnel.

Chinese-language media reported recently that the ministry has also decided to abolish the Kinmen and Matsu defense commands in five years and to let the Penghu defense command take over the defense affairs of the islands.

Commenting on the report, the ministry said it has consulted extensively with various military units while drawing up the troop-restructuring plan.

"We have never come up with any proposal to scrap the Kinmen and Matsu defense commands," the ministry said in the press release.

Minister of National Defense Tang Yiau-min (湯曜明) said last week that the armed forces will be transformed into defense forces over a 10-year period, with the combined services brigade as the main operational unit.

Tang said that in the first four years the nation's military academies will be downsized and integrated. Several professional defense research institutes will then be set up in tandem with the nation's military buildup policy.

From next year through 2006, Tang said, a total of 45,000 service members will be axed. In the second stage, he went on, the number of service members on active duty will be cut to 270,000.

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