The military has seen 20 cases of defections to China since 1949, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) revealed Wednesday at the legislature.
Among the cases, 17 are with the air force, two with the army and one with the navy, Tang said.
The defections took place between 1949 and 1989, and no case has been reported since.
Tang released the figure at a meeting of the Defense Committee of the legislature in response to inquiries from an opposition lawmaker about the number of defections to China.
Tang did not reveal any further details of the defections and yesterday the Ministry of National Defense refused to elaborate on the minister's figure.
The air force also declined to speak on the issue.
However a book published by Taipei-based Wings of China describes in detail most of the air force's defections.
In 1949 alone, three planes -- a C-47 transport, an AT-6 trainer and a PT-17 trainer -- were flown to China from bases in Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Taichung, according to the book Defections from Formosa. A total of six air-force personnel defected with the three planes.
Over each of the next seven years, excluding 1952, there were two to three defections on a variety of aircraft.
In 1963, Captain Hsu Ting-tse (
In 1981, Major Huang Chih-chen (黃誠) committed the first defection to China in an F-5 series plane. The plane was carrying another pilot, Hsu Chiu-lin (許秋麟). Huang forced Hsu to parachute before landing in Fujian's Fuzhou.
The most recent defection took place in 1989, when Major Lien Hsien-shun (
A defense official, who wished to remain anonymous, said it is hard to pinpoint why these military personnel betrayed their country since none of them had displayed any unusual signs prior to their defection.
"But from some of these defectors, we found clues. Huang Chih-chen, for instance, was heavily in debt for some time before he flew to China," the official said.
"Lin Hsien-shun was found to have serious family problems before he defected. We are not sure of the connections between personal problems and defections. But the finding has helped us prevent defections by plane from happening again," he said.
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