The military might risk a shortage of conscripts if it fails to transition to a voluntary enlistment system by 2019, the Control Yuan and the Ministry of the Interior said.
The ministry last year said that by next year, 30,000 men born before 1993 would still not have served their mandatory service, and that by 2018, only 17,000 men would be left for drafting, with the number expected to plummet further to 7,000 in 2019.
The cut-off date of last year was decided in accordance with the plans drawn up by former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in a bid to transition to an entirely voluntary enlistment system by 2014, a goal that has been delayed multiple times.
Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) recently said that men who turned 18 last year would not be drafted provided that more than 90 percent of the military is comprised of voluntary personnel by 2018.
However, the Legislative Yuan’s Budget Center said in a report that as of September, volunteers only accounted for 75.72 percent of total personnel.
The interior ministry also cited statistics showing that the nation’s birthrate is on the decline, and the Ministry of National Defense’s recruitment efforts have been hurt by incidents such as the death of army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) in July 2013, just three days before his conscription period was to end, from heat exhaustion allegedly caused by intensive exercising ordered by superiors.
An Academia Sinica poll last year found 61 percent of respondents backed dropping the current all-volunteer policy and revert to conscription.
Former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on Thursday said that the necessity of an all-voluntary military should be reassessed, noting that such a system might contravene the Constitution, which states that male Taiwanese are obliged to serve in the military.
In other news, the defense ministry has deferred its military restructuring plan to late next year, after it proposes new strategic goals, at the request of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
The military reduced its number of personnel in 2014 and planned to conduct downsizing again to between 170,000 and 190,000 personnel as part of its transition to an all-volunteer force.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is aware that Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong has weakened any possible sentiment for a “one country, two systems” arrangement for Taiwan, and has instructed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politburo member Wang Huning (王滬寧) to develop new ways of defining cross-strait relations, Japanese news magazine Nikkei Asia reported on Thursday. A former professor of international politics at Fu Dan University, Wang is expected to develop a dialogue that could serve as the foundation for cross-strait unification, and Xi plans to use the framework to support a fourth term as president, Nikkei Asia quoted an anonymous source
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