Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Navy fleets begin a 2-week `friendly tour' of Taiwan

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The navy's three fleets started a 2-week friendly trip visiting Taiwan's major harbors yesterday, to promote better relations with the public and attract more volunteers to join the military.

The three fleets included La Fayette-class Frigate, Perry-class Frigate, and Anchorage-class LSD.

The naval fleets are visiting harbors at Kaohsiung, Hualien, Suao, Keelung, Taichung, Penghu, and Tainan, where the public is welcome to visit them.

La Fayette frigate and the other two fleets opened to the public at Kaoshiung Navy Port yesterday, attracting many people to see inside the frigates. The fleets will still be open to the Kaohsiung public tomorrow morning, and then it will launch its 2-week friendly tour around Taiwan and the outlying island of Penghu.

"The fleets' friendly tour was in line with the Ministry of National Defense's [MND] policy of promoting good relations with the public, so we welcomed and provided a longer time for people to visit the fleets," said the navy's new commander-in-chief General Chen Pan-chih (陳邦治) at a ceremony at Kaoshiung Navy Port.

The navy officers are here to encourage people to volunteer for military service, added Chen.

Chen Pen-chin and acting Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) also called on the public to support the NT$ 610.8 billion (US$19.3 billion) arms bill which he says is crucial to Taiwan's security.

With the beginning of the new legislative session, the MND has cut down the proposed NT$610.8 billion arms bill to NT$590 billion, hoping the arms deal will quickly be approved by lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the MND has been moving from reliance on conscription to a volunteer basis. By 2008, volunteer recruits will comprise 60 percent of the total military manpower, while 40 percent will still be conscripts.

To encourage people to volunteer for military service, the Ministry of National Defense will raise volunteers' monthly salary to about NT$35,000 and offer attractive retirement pensions.

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