Sat, Aug 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Ministry bluffed about soldiers’ prowess: source

NOT ACCURATE If soldiers in their 40s and 50s were as formidable as the president has been led to think, China would have been recovered long ago, an insider claimed

By Hsu Shao-hsuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Recent remarks by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) praising the physical prowess of the nation’s middle-aged servicemen had no basis in reality, according to a military source who said the Ministry of National Defense had embellished a report to curry favor with the president.

While presiding at a promotion ceremony in late June where Ma urged the military to be upright and honest, the president praised Taiwan’s military strength, saying that more than two-thirds of military men in their 40s and 50s were still able to lead cadets in running 3km in 15 minutes.

Ma mentioned the figure again last month at a separate setting and reiterated his praise for the country’s armed forces.

RETAKING THE MAINLAND

However, a source within the military, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the figure was a lie and joked that if the country’s middle-aged officers were in such excellent physical condition, “Taiwan would have recovered mainland China a long time ago.”

The source said that while running 3km in 15 minutes was the standard for young officers, this was not the case for older servicemen.

When asked for comment, the ministry said the exact standard for soldiers aged 40 to 50 was around 16 minutes, 15 seconds to 17 minutes, 40 seconds and that 15 minutes was no longer the 3km benchmark.

At the end of July, 120 out of 180 officers who had taken the run test had passed, the ministry said.

The ministry declined to say how many of the officers were able to finish the 3km run under 15 minutes.

CHALLENGE

When 74-year-old Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) — who is known for showing off his physical strength — heard about Ma’s claims about the physical condition of the senior officers, he challenged officers to do the run publicly at this year’s Armed Forces Day on Sept. 3 at the military academy in Beitou.

If they were unable to finish the run in 15 minutes, Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min (陳肇敏) should step down, Chai said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator and former army lieutenant-general Shuai Hua-min (帥化民), meanwhile, said the president had set a high bar for the military, but “physical training does take time.”

When asked if two-thirds of the senior officers really could finish a 3km run in 15 minutes, Shuai said he had no comment.

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