Troops in parade to carry empty weapons

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 3

Minister of National Defense Lee Tien-yu (李天羽) confirmed yesterday that military personnel taking part in the National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Office today would not carry loaded weapons.

"It is an international norm for military personnel in major troop reviews not to be armed with loaded weapons," Lee said when taking questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) during a legislative interpellation in the plenary session yesterday.

When approached by reporters on his way to the session, Lee also said it was "unnecessary" for the military to carry loaded weapons to the celebration.

"This is a safety rule and not an exceptional case. It has always been like this since I participated in the National Day military review as a student," Lee said.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), however, said in response to a question from Huang that he did not know whether personnel from the National Security Bureau (NSB) followed the same rule.

Lee and Chang were asked to comment on a report published in yesterday's Chinese-language China Times, which quoted an anonymous source from the military as saying that the NSB had requested all troops performing today to carry empty weapons.

The story cited another unidentified NSB source as saying that the rule was standard operating procedure and applied to the military police, while the military could decide for itself.

When asked to comment yesterday morning, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who is in charge of organizing the celebration, said he did not know anything about the NSB's request.

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), however, said that banning loaded weapons showed President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) fear and distrust of the people.

Meanwhile, another China Times story said that the military had spent up to NT$77 million (US$2.3 million) on the parade and would show off 2,000 soldiers, 200 pieces of ground equipment and 300 helicopters and fighters.

Wang said the cost was "reasonable," when asked for comment.

"We spend a similar amount of money [on the celebrations] each year. The only difference [between the expense of this year and other years] is the military performance," Wang said, adding that extra personnel costs were unavoidable.