Former minister of defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) yesterday denied leaking military secrets about Taiwan’s development of medium-range missiles in his autobiography, saying that the information had already been made public.
“I would cooperate with any investigation if the Ministry of National Defense decides to probe the matter,” Tsai, who served as the first civilian minister of defense during the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, said on the sidelines of the launch of his memoir, titled God Bless Taiwan (天佑台灣).
Prior to the book launch, local media on Saturday reported that Tsai wrote in his book that Taiwan test-fired domestically produced medium-range missiles — which have credible performance in terms of speed, control, precision and error rates — in March 2008, raising concern from Washington. Following the report, the ministry said that it would not rule out initiating an investigation into the matter.
Tsai yesterday said that the development of the missiles has been reported by Taiwanese and US media and was discussed in legislative sessions, adding that the minsitry had also mentioned the development in its written and oral report to the legislature.
Former chief of the general staff Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) and former minister of defense Tang Fei (唐飛) revealed a lot more confidential military information in their memoirs, added Tsai, who headed the ministry for just three months in 2008 as the last defense minister of the DPP administration.
Tsai said that the revelation was positive and helped people regain confidence in the nation’s defense amid a growing military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait.
“People expressed strong support for making the revelation and for the missile project since the news was first reported as they understand that the ministry is doing its best to safeguard the country and Taiwanese,” Tsai told a seminar on cross-strait and regional security cooperation held after the book launch.
Tsai, who also once served as deputy representative to the US, underlined the role Washington plays in Taiwan’s security and would play in the case of another Taiwan Strait crisis.
The US played a pivotal role in three such crises in the past, including its military engagement in China’s bombardment of Kinmen in 1958 and in 1996, as well as the 319 shooting incident on the eve of Taiwan’s presidential election in 2004, Tsai said.
The former minister of defense reiterated his call for scrapping the all-voluntary recruitment of the military, saying that mandatory conscription remained necessary due to the increasing military threat from China, an insufficient defense budget and the nation’s low birthrate.
The ministry has elaborated the difficulties of implementing the system in the legislature, Tsai said, adding that countries facing the same military threats as Taiwan, such as South Korea and Singapore, have not implemented an all-volunteer system.
“I don’t know why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) insisted on implementing the system when the time is not ripe,” he said.