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MND ASKED ABOUT TAIWAN'S CAPABILITY IN SENDING TROOPS OVERSEAS

2004-05-26 14:22:51

    Taipei, May 26 (CNA) National Defense Minister Li Chieh confirmed Wednesday that "high level" government officials had made inquiries at his ministry about Taiwan's capability in terms of dispatching troops overseas.

    The ministry has studied the question and drafted a three-principle proposal regarding the feasibility of sending ROC troops to overseas battlefields, Li said at a Legislative Yuan Defense Committee meeting.

    The three principles in the proposal include that the troop members to be sent overseas must be volunteers; that Taiwan's defense capability is sufficient enough to spare extra hands to work overseas; and that what is the nature of the task of forces to be deployed, such as for peacekeeping or for humanitarian aid, according to Li.

    Li, who assumed office May 20 on the day of President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration for a second term, said that judging from the ROC marine forces' current capability, only a few thousand marines could be mobilized for overseas missions at the most.

    The defense minister stressed, however, that the consent of the Legislative Yuan to sending troops to Iraq or other areas overseas is imperative.

    Consequently, he said, if the notion of dispatching ROC forces overseas became a case, there first must be a legislation passed by the Legislative Yuan to regulate such action.

    Li added that to the best of his understanding, the United States has never asked Taiwan to send troops to Iraq. "We (the Ministry of National Defense) have no such plans either," he said.

    Speculation has been rife over the past few days that Taiwan had discussed with the United States the possibility of deploying troops to Iraq to join coalition forces. The speculation was dismissed as groundless by the Presidential Office Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, Li also dismissed recent reports saying that ROC military jets have been crossing the middle line of the Taiwan Strait.

    Li for the first time disclosed the line of demarcation in the Taiwan Strait, saying that the line -- which runs from 27 degrees latitude and 123 degrees longitude to 23 degrees latitude and 119 degrees longitude -- was demarcated by the United States in 1951 for the purpose of maintaining peace in the strait.

    Li said that he has no idea whether the mainland Chinese authorities are aware of this tacit line of demarcation.

(By Deborah Kuo)

ENDITEM/Li



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