The military said on Saturday that the commander of a Navy fleet that sailed off course during a recent military exercise had been punished for “serious disciplinary violations,” but denied that the decision was made following pressure from Japan.
Although Rear Admiral Chang Feng-chiang (張鳳強), former commander of the 168th Fleet, had informed the Navy by cable of his plan to sail out of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), he failed to obtain permission from his superiors, Naval Inspector-General Chou Mei-wu (周美伍) said.
The Navy will also look into the errors that allowed the fleet to stay outside the zone for 12 hours without being instructed to return, Chou said. A meeting is scheduled to be held today to discuss the matter.
During the exercise off Taiwan’s east coast late last month, Chang’s fleet did not operate in the area planned for the drill, but instead sailed toward the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located about 100km east of Taiwan. Chang was given a major demerit and removed from his position o Wednesday last week.
In a statement issued late on Friday, the Ministry of National Defense said that Chang had “seriously violated the discipline of the exercise” by changing the exercise plans without permission and refusing to comply with instructions to keep the fleet in a specific area.
The ministry dismissed as “mere fabrication” a report by the Chinese-language United Evening News that a retired Japanese military attache visited the ministry to express his concern following the incident and that the decision to punish Chang was a “kowtow to Japan.”
“The handling of the case has nothing to do with Japan,” it said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said Chang should not have been punished. Although Chang’s fleet sailed outside Taiwan’s ADIZ, it stayed on the high seas and did not trespass into Japanese waters, Lin said.
He said the ministry’s decision to punish Chang would be seen as “cowardly” by the international community.
KMT Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥), an expert in maritime affairs, said Chang’s fleet was operating within an exclusive economic zone claimed by Taiwan, which extends 200 nautical miles (370.5km) from the territorial sea baseline of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) proclaimed by the government in 1998. Punishing Chang is tantamount to relinquishing Taiwan’s rights over the area, Chiu said.