The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday confirmed reports that it would cut troop numbers, but said exact figures had yet to be finalized.
The remarks came after the Chinese-language China Times reported yesterday that the military would lay off tens of thousands of soldiers over the next four years, cutting total military personnel from 275,000 to about 180,000.
MND Spokeswoman Major General Lisa Chi (池玉蘭) said the story was only partly accurate.
“There will be fewer soldiers once we replace those who are doing compulsory military service with career soldiers, but the decrease in numbers will not affect our national security,” Chi said. “We will make the best use of personnel arrangements with a limited budget.”
Chi said the transition from compulsory military service to a professional military was expected to be complete by 2015.
Because of a limited annual budget for military personnel, the total number of troops would drop because career soldiers will cost more, she said, but the exact figure has yet to be determined.
“Relations with China will factor into our plans,” Chih said.
She said details of the measure would likely be made public on July 1, including estimates of the number of troops to be cut.
“The operation is ongoing and will have no impact whatsoever on our national security,” she said.
Asked for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party Legislator (KMT) Shuai Hua-ming (帥化民), a member of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said the reduction in troops would be a move in “the right direction.”
“I think [the ministry] is on the right track, given the fact that [the nation] is not suffering any immediate threat of war. If [the ministry] does not adjust [the number of military personnel] now, when would be a better time to do so?” he asked.
Shuai said the ministry should review its organizational structure, particularly in terms of logistics and reserve forces. Many military personnel were “redundant,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators, meanwhile, said personnel cuts would weaken national security and morale within the military.
“This is the administration of [President] Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] showing its sincerity to China,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) told a press conference.
Tsai said cutting military personnel to about 180,000 would constitute a significant reduction and that the plans were being made without considering the impact on national security.
He said Ma’s government had delayed several military procurement projects and cut military budgets since taking office in May, repeatedly indicating a desire to reduce the size of the military to avoid confrontation with China.
However, attempts to appease China would prove foolish, he said, because “Ma’s sincere heart will be repaid by China’s bad heart.”
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) said the proposed troop reduction was dangerous.
Meanwhile, Tsai panned lax discipline in the military after a conscript at the Air Force Institute of Technology was reported on Sunday to have taken and sold drugs on campus.
“A [conscript] using drugs would definitely have no combat capability,” said Tsai, adding that there had been several cases of military personnel using drugs, but that the ministry had not taken any measures to put a stop to it.
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