Tue, Feb 08, 2005 - Page 2 News List

President visits the troops

DEFENSE MEASURES Chen Shui-bian inspected military bases in the afternoon, while the national defense ministry said it has raised combat readiness for the holiday period

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) attended a dinner party for the Navy's 131st fleet at Keelung Harbor yesterday evening to highlight the military's combat readiness during the Lunar New Year holidays.

"I would like to reassure the public that our army has made proper preparations for any military threats that might occur during the Lunar New Year holiday. So thanks to the servicemen and happy New Year to them," Chen said to fleet members.

"Although the government has attempted to reduce tensions with China, the best way to maintain peace is to prepare for war," he said.

The president had dinner with the members of the fleet, and offered some gifts for a lucky draw.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) also attended the dinner.

Yesterday afternoon, the president inspected Hengshan Strategic Command and the Air Force Combat Center, as well as an army base in Hsichih, Taipei County.

In addition, the Ministry of National Defense announced combat preparation measures for the Lunar New Year holiday, which took effect yesterday from 5pm and will last until 8am Friday.

Precautionary

The ministry said that to prevent a surprise attack from China, the navy and air force began increasing their monitoring of the nation's sea and air space yesterday.

"The navy's vessels, submarine and air force have been cruising the major seaports of Taiwan and the northern, eastern and southern straits around Taiwan," the ministry said.

In addition, missile speedboats will maintain a 30-minute fire capability, while fighter jets can be in the air within six minutes of receiving an alarm, the ministry said.

Fearing China might attack an outlying island, the military also has enhanced its offshore island defense capabilities for the holiday.

New navy chief

The visit marked the first time the president has spent his Lunar New Year holiday with the military. Meanwhile, his attendance at the dinner party was widely seen as a show of support for the navy's new commander-in-chief, General Chen Pan-chih (陳邦治).

Chen Pan-chih is the first marine ever to hold the position. He assumed the post on Jan. 28, amid criticism from several high-ranking navy officers, saying that a marine was not fit to lead the navy.

Chen Pan-chin has been seen as one of the president's favorites in the military, and some speculate he was promoted as he had been instrumental in supporting Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) on the proposed NT$610.8 billion (US$19.4 million) arms procurement plan.

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