Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was wrong to say that, unlike in Israel, compulsory military service is a “waste of time” for draftees in Taiwan because its education is not integrated with national defense and private industry, like it is there, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday.
Ko is in Israel on an official four-day visit on an invitation by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend the annual International Mayors’ Conference, during which he was also to meet with Israeli lawmakers to talk about national defense and visit the Weizmann Institute of Science.
He made the remarks on Sunday while speaking to Taiwanese reporters after visiting Mobileye, an Israeli subsidiary of Intel Corp that develops vision technology for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving.
After a test ride in a self-driving car, Ko said that it went through narrow streets, where pedestrians, bicycles or motorcycles would suddenly appear from the sides, but the car still drove smoothly, so the visual processing of the artificial intelligence system must be fast and advanced.
Taiwan has a strong information and communications technology (ICT) industry, but it should focus its development the way Mobileye has, Ko said, adding that the founders sold the firm to Intel for US$15 billion, rather than trying to mass produce and sell self-driving cars on their own.
“Israel is smart, because it integrates education, national defense and private industry,” Ko said, adding that students with good grades or expertise in coding can serve in intelligence divisions during their mandatory military service.
Some of them go on to form information security companies together after their military service, which can then sell information security services to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, he said..The integration of education, national defense and industry makes Israel more efficient, unlike Taiwan, where “everyone who does compulsory military service thinks it is a waste of time,” he said.
Asked to comment on Ko’s remark at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Yen said: “I wish that Ko could improve his understanding of the the nation’s armed forces.”
Education, national defense and industry are already integrated in Taiwan, with 277 high schools and vocational schools offering military preparatory courses, he said, adding that 128 universities have reserve officers’ training programs, integrating military service with education.
The military has formed a strategic “lifelong learning” alliance with 33 universities, which allows military personnel to acquire additional expertise while serving, so that they can plan for a second career after completing their service, he said.
Alternative civilian service at Academia Sinica has also helped cultivate talented people who have become successful in business, Yen said, reiterating that Ko did not understand the situation.
Additional reporting by CNA
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