Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Defense ministry looking overseas for war financing


In a seeming case of loose lips, the newly appointed commander of the armed forces reserve said yesterday that the Ministry of National Defense would request loans from friendly countries in the event of war breaking out in the Taiwan Strait.

Armed forces reserve commander General Chen Ti-tuan (陳體端) said that to raise money for war, the ministry would ask the central government to issue war bonds or obtain loans from foreign governments.

"The ministry would make the request to the Ministry of Finance if it needed to do so," Chen said.

Chen was delivering a report on war mobilization plans during a meeting of the legislature's National Defense Committee. It was Chen's first appearance at the legislature after being promoted on April 3 to commander of the armed forces reserve command, a three-star general rank.

The promotion is believed to be a gesture of goodwill from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), who has asked to resign but agreed to stay until a replacement is found.

People First Party Legislator Nelson Ku (顧崇廉), a retired navy commander-in-chief, expressed strong concern over the issue but could not get a response from Chen, because the latter left the legislature halfway through the committee hearing to preside over unit inauguration ceremonies in central Taiwan.

Lieutenant General Hsieh Yu-lung (謝雲龍), an official with the department of reserve affairs, answering on behalf of Chen, told Ku that it was up to the finance ministry whether to issue war bonds or to ask for loans from other countries.

"We just make our war-fund requests to the finance ministry. They decide how and where to get the money," Hsieh said.

Not satisfied with the answer, Ku said to borrow money from other countries for a war would result in trouble for the military.

"The defense ministry should by no means try to do this," Ku said. "The military should stay away from foreign influence."

Speaking privately after the committee meeting, Ku claimed the US was the country that the defense ministry was referring to as a potential supplier of war funds.

A defense source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ministry was a scapegoat in the matter since it was the National Security Council and not the ministry that was trying to talk to the US about possible grants.

Chen Ti-tuan is widely known in the military to be one of Tang's most trusted allies.

His rise to the rank of three-star general surprised many because he allegedly lacks important work experience considered necessary for a commander in the armed services.

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