DENT CALLS FOR SUPPORT FOR ARMS PROCUREMENT, VOLUNTEER MILITARY
Central News Agency
Taipei, June 29 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Wednesday that Taiwan is now at a critical juncture of metamorphosis on many fronts, including constitutional reform, detente across the Taiwan Strait, diplomatic development and upgrading of national defense.
Chen made the remarks while addressing a commissioning ceremony for 55 newly promoted generals and admirals. "Over the years of development, Taiwan has become a liberal democracy. But it is now facing many new challenges, " Chen said.
At this historical moment, the president went on, Taiwan must establish an elite military force to guarantee a safe and stable environment for constitutional reform, cross-strait detente, civic participation in diplomatic affairs and refinement of defense capabilities.
As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Chen said he wants to join all service members in fulfilling the military's core values of "sacrifice, unity and accountability" with "courage, conviction and trust."
Noting that the ultimate goal of Taiwan's military buildup is to maintain a balance of military power with China, Chen said Taiwan must establish an elite military force strong enough to deter any invasion and fight back any possible attack from China.
In recent years, Chen said, senior U.S. officials have on many occasions expressed worries about China's rapid military expansion and missile deployment. The soon-to-be-released Pentagon annual defense white paper is also expected to mention U.S. concern about China's growing military power.
Chen said three weaponry systems his administration has proposed to purchase from the United States -- eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft -- have been chosen after a comprehensive professional assessment and extensive public debate. "We regret that the procurement plan has been excessively politicized. With the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan refusing even to put the procurement package into its work agenda, our national defense network may have a loophole that could eventually upset the military balance in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region," Chen said.
Chen expressed hope that all military service personnel can stand even more united and redouble their efforts to hone their combat prowess to safeguard national security and cross-strait stability.
With the evolution of modern warfare, he continued, Taiwan must establish an all-volunteer military service system to upgrade the quality of service members, enhance combat prowess and boost military operational efficiency.
Noting that ever-more sophisticated weapons require trained professionals to operate them, Chen said the military must step up recruitment of volunteers so that these advanced weapons can be operated appropriately and the weapons' efficacy reaches their fullest potential. A volunteer service system is also expected to increase job opportunities for young people, he added.
While congratulating the new generals and admirals, Chen also demanded that all senior officers further improve management mechanisms and risk-reduction measures to minimize accidents and casualties in military training programs and enhance safety in military barracks.
(By Sofia Wu)
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