The minister of national defense yesterday said the results of an investigation into why a Republic of China Navy sleet sailed off course during a military exercise late last month would be revealed today and that responsible officials would be disciplined under the “principle of proportionality.”
Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) discussed the incident at a press conference amid allegations that “external factors,” including Japanese pressure and power struggles in the military, had complicated the investigation.
Kao said the investigation taskforce had determined that every level in the navy — from Fleet Command, Navy Command Headquarters and General Staff Headquarters — had played a role in the incident.
“We regret and apologize for the controversies raised by our handling of the incident and the punishments meted out,” Kao said.
From the beginning, the investigation was not considering politics and focused solely on violations of exercise rules, he said, adding that it was unrelated to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) East China Sea peace initiative.
“I did not know [about the initiative] before the president announced it,” Kao said.
The military last week announced that Rear Admiral Chang Feng-chiang (張鳳強), the former commander of the 168th Fleet, which sailed off course during a military exercise last month, had been punished for “serious violations in discipline,” but denied that the decision was made following pressure from the Japanese government.
Chang was given a major demerit and removed from his position on Wednesday last week.
The navy added that although Chang had informed superiors by cable of his plan to sail out of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), he had failed to obtain permission from his superiors.
The navy is also looking into the errors that allowed the fleet to stay outside the zone for 12 hours without being instructed to return.
During the exercise — held off the east coast — 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.
Naval Inspector-General Chou Mei-wu (周美伍) confirmed that Japan had sent P-3C naval surveillance aircraft to hover over the fleet while it sailed in the waters near Yonaguni.
Additional reporting by CNA