Opposition parties yesterday expressed support for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement that the government would return the conscription period to one year, but called for complementary measures.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus convener William Tseng (曾銘宗) said the party had proposed improving the quality and content of military service, as well as measures to give conscripts fair treatment, including a monthly wage of NT$26,400 (US$860) rather than the NT$26,307 proposed by the government.
Tseng urged the government to restore the sense of honor that comes with military service, for instance by changing Armed Forces Day on Sept. 3 to “Respect for the Armed Forces” day and making it a national holiday.
Photo: Liao Chen-hui, Taipei Times
The KMT caucus would also monitor whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus alters the wording in the Executive Yuan’s report on conscription from “take note” to “to be reviewed,” he added.
Such administrative orders usually take effect immediately, while agencies would receive a document informing them to “take note” of the order.
However, if the wording were changed to “to be reviewed,” the process would be changed, and the legislature would be involved in the debate over the issue, usually resulting in either a “yes” or “no” answer.
DPP caucus convener Lo Chi-cheng (羅致政) said that the new policy is not a simple extension of mandatory military service, but rather a move to introduce sweeping changes.
Annual government expenditure is expected to rise by NT$16 billion with the new policy, which should not pose a significant difficulty for the government, Lo said.
Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy president Chang Yu-meng (張育萌) said that the mandatory service period in Taiwan is shorter than other countries, but young people are now concerned about wasting a year of their life, rather than four months.
Chang called for student involvement in a discussion over the option to serve while attending university.
The New Power Party (NPP) caucus called on the Executive Yuan to clarify supporting measures and urged the legislature to launch deliberations.
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) caucus deputy convener Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) said that all parties should support the decision, but added that the policy’s details should be clarified.
Highlighting the issue of self-harm within the military, Taiwan Citizen Participation Association director-general Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳) called on the government to re-establish the Military Complaints Committee to handle such incidents.
Academics also called for further reforms, raising concern about training capacity.
Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow at the National Policy Foundation, said the extension of the service period would help boost the nation’s reserve forces.
However, the forces already face a shortage of training capacity and a lack of military personnel to train conscripts, Chieh said.
“How do they expect to train the 600,000 to 700,000 conscripts who will undergo one year of mandatory military service starting in 2024?” he asked.
The Ministry of National Defense has said that it expects to establish five to 11 new brigades to train conscripts and reservists.
Assistant professor Lin Ying-yu (林穎佑) from Tamkang University’s Institute of Strategic Studies said the ministry needs to ensure that training is practical.
“If, after the extension, most conscripts do the same administrative jobs or tasks that conscripts used to do when the service period was longer, then it will be useless,” Lin said.
Asked to comment on what her administration would do to boost training capacity and the need for additional personnel, Tsai told reporters that her government has one year to make the necessary preparations.
“Next year will be a very busy year,” she said.
Meanwhile, China’s government-backed Voice of Strait radio station launched a cognitive warfare operation against Taiwan following the announcement, saying the policy was pushing Taiwan toward the brink of war.
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