Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Defense minister says ready to bow out at `any time'

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said he was expecting a civilian minister to replace him at any time.

Lee said he had discussed the issue with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and that he "can leave any time" after the president has found a suitable person to replace him.

"I think a civilian minister would bring a lot of fresh ideas to the ministry, which will be a good thing," he said. "It seems, however, that no proper candidate for the position has been found for now."

Civilian control

Lee made the remarks on the sidelines of a regional security seminar yesterday after being asked by the media about Chen's recent remark that he hoped that civilian control of the military would be achieved in the final year of his term.

"Now that this is President Chen's policy, we shall carry it out no matter what," Lee added.

Asked whether having a new "civilian minister" was a sign that Vice Minister Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) would succeed him to the position in the near future, Lee said that any other civilian stood an equal chance of replacing him.

"Anything is possible," Lee said. "It is not appropriate for me to comment on the issue. But, please, do not make wild guesses about this anymore."

Meanwhile, at a separate event yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said President Chen had told him why he had reshuffled personnel at the Presidential Office but added that "it is not appropriate for me to explain the president's reasons [for doing this] at the moment."

Su made the remarks after being asked by the press to comment on Chen's announcement on Monday that he had swapped the posts of Presidential Office Secretary-General Mark Chen (陳唐山) and National Security Council Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁).

Asked if the reshuffle was in preparation for next year's presidential election, Su did not answer directly.

"I believe that both of them can do their new jobs well because they are all so familiar with everything at the Presidential Office," Su said, assuring the press that he was fully aware of every decision the president made on personnel issues.

`Impossible'

In related news, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun yesterday denied he had been tapped to replace Su.

"It is impossible," he said when queried by press. "I can assure everyone that this is impossible."

Yu said he had more important matters to deal with as party chairman than he would if he were to assume the premiership once again.

Yu was premier from Feb. 2002 until Feb. 2005.

Additional reporting by Flora Wang

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