The four-month conscription rule aimed at wooing young voters was a ridiculous move on the part of Taiwan’s two largest political parties, former National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Ting Yu-chou (丁渝洲) said on Sunday.
Former US secretary of defense Mark Esper, while visiting Taiwan last week, said that military service for conscripts should be extended to one year and women should be included in the program.
Taiwanese men had to serve two to three years in the military as part of a conscription system adopted by the Republic of China government after it relocated to Taiwan in 1949. Conscription was reduced to one year in 2008.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
During former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, the government announced that joining the armed forces would be voluntary and conscripts would only be required to undergo four months of military training, starting in 2013.
The policy has continued under the Democratic Progressive Party, which came into power in 2016.
The nation’s military is mainly a volunteer force now, with conscripts serving a supporting role.
“Shortening the conscription not only reduced the military strength of active-duty soldiers, but also paralyzed the strength of the reserve forces,” Ting said on Sunday at a book launch by former NSC deputy secretary-general Chang Jung-feng (張榮豐) in Taipei.
Ting served as head of the NSC from August 2001 to March 2002 under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and was head of the National Security Bureau and Ministry of National Defense’s Military Intelligence Bureau under former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
The world is paying attention to cross-strait issues and some countries have even listed Taiwan as one of the most dangerous regions in the world, Ting said.
He said that he had never been afraid of war when he served in the military, but is becoming more fearful of it after his retirement.
The Chinese military has grown at a fast pace over the past two decades, Ting said, adding that the gap between Taiwan’s and China’s military forces is widening.
Even if Taiwan were powerful enough to defeat China, it should avoid war, because it would harm its citizens, he added.
In addition to strengthening its military forces, Taiwan should focus on “soft strategies,” using diplomatic, psychological, economic and technological measures to safeguard the country, he said.
“Protecting the country’s best interests is an expression of love for Taiwan,” he added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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