Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MND apologizes for visit snafu

POSTPONED TRIP Minister of National Defense Lee Jye said officials at the Hsinchu air base had erred in their preparations for an inspection by President Chen Shui-bian

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense (MDND yesterday apologized for cancelling an inspection visit by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to the air force base in Hsinchu scheduled for yesterday.

The trip was cancelled by the Presidental Office late Monday night.

The planned visit had triggered an uproar in the media after some Chinese-language newspapers carried reports that the air force had canceled leave time for officers and enlisted personnel so that they could rehearse for the welcoming ceremony.

Some reports had quoted enlisted personnel as saying that their regular drills had been cancelled in the run-up to Chen's visit.

The reports said the air force was trying to curry favor with Chen.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) said that he had long said that the military should "not violate the military's regulations and make elaborate welcoming ceremonies for the nation's leaders or military officials."

Chen had planned to visit to the base yesterday and videotape his speech for the "Soldier's Day" festival there this Saturday.

The base is home to the air force's Mirage 2000 unit.

Chinese-language newspaper reports yesterday said that Chen had been upset by the critical coverage and had decided not to go to the base.

Staff at the Presidential Office, however, said the president was not angry and he would consider making a trip to the base at another time.

The ministry yesterday said the air base had not "correctly" followed the regulations for the usual welcoming routine, which had caused the media to misunderstand the situation.

"I would continue to ask the military to deal with the visit by the regulations," Lee told reporters in a noon meeting with journalists who cover the ministry beat.

Officials at the air base should take responsibility for the matter, he said.

Several opposition lawmakers had criticized both Chen and the armed forces on Monday before the Hsinchu trip was cancelled. They said Chen should make it clear to the military that he disapproved of what the lawmakers' called a "toadying culture."

The military has been criticized before for allegedly trying to curry favor with Chen.

For Chen's visit to the Kaoshiung naval base in February, the navy decorated a house and yard in the base to resemble Chen's hometown in Tainan County.

In March, the air-force base in Tainan created a poster showing Chen's dressed in a general's uniform with five stars on the sleeves.

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