Taiwan looks to future with reshuffle of six senior military officials

Changes involving six senior officials will help revitalise island's armed forces and promote next generation of leaders

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 January, 2015, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 January, 2015, 6:50pm

Taiwan's military will reshuffle its top officials - including six out of seven generals and admirals - in an apparent effort to revitalise its armed forces and promote its next generation of leaders.

The changes, which take effect tomorrow, would see army commander Yen De-fa promoted to chief of the general staff and deputy defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng appointed head of the army, Taiwanese military spokesman Luo Shao-he said yesterday.

Air force commander General Liu Chen-wu will take over from Chiu as deputy defence minister, while Liu's post will be filled by deputy defence administrative minister Lieutenant General Shen Yi-ming.

The vice-chief of the general staff, Vice-Admiral Li Hsi-ming, will succeed Admiral Chen Yung-kang as navy commander. Shen and Li will also be promoted to general and admiral respectively.

Luo said the military reshuffle - Taiwan's biggest in years - followed the resignation of defence minister Yen Ming, who stepped down to facilitate new promotions and stimulate the revitalisation of the armed forces.

"Minister Yen had previously offered to resign several times, and his resignation was finally accepted by President Ma Ying-jeou on Tuesday," Luo said, adding that Yen, 65, would be succeeded by Admiral Kao Kuang-chi, Chief of the General Staff, who would also be inaugurated in his new post tomorrow.

Yen and Chen, the outgoing navy commander, would become the president's strategy advisers, Luo added.

Lin Yu-fang, a Kuomintang official on the defence committee of Taiwan's legislature, yesterday called the new appointments "well balanced" because the army, air force and the navy would all see new changes after the reshuffle.

"President Ma is aware of the need to have an overhaul of top military officials in order to freshen up the armed forces and cultivate a new generation of military leaders," Lin said.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based retired navy colonel, said the scale of the reshuffle was rare in Ma's tenure. "This indicates Ma wants to tell the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party that he is also keen to develop military power, besides promoting his mainland-friendly, cross-strait policy," Li said. "By initiating the reshuffle, Ma also wants to tell others that he is still the one in charge of major affairs, even though there is still a year or so left of his tenure."

Ma will step down in May 2016.

Military sources said the reshuffle was expected to help consolidate Taiwan's plan to build its own submarines because the promoted admirals had long supported the idea of the island constructing its own underwater vessels.

Li said that Kao and Li Hsi-ming, both appointed from the navy, would be of great help in organising Taiwan's building of its own submarines.

Taiwan has long wanted to buy submarines from abroad, and earlier received the United States' approval for its order of submarines.

However, there has been no progress, mostly because of obstacles set up by Beijing, which regards Taiwan as one of its provinces and objects to other countries selling arms to the island.

Additional reporting by Minnie Chan