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Fleet commander removed for `discipline violations': military

ROC Central News Agency

2012/08/04 20:40:59

Taipei, Aug. 4 (CNA) The military said Saturday that the commander of a Navy fleet that sailed off its designated course during a recent military exercise had been punished for "serious discipline violations," but denied that the decision was made following pressure from Japan.

Although Rear Admiral Chang Feng-chiang, former commander of the 168th Fleet, had informed the Navy by cable of his plan to sail out of Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), he failed to obtain permission from his superiors, according to Naval Inspector-General Chou Mei-wu.

The Navy will also look into the errors that allowed the fleet to stay outside the zone for 12 hours without being instructed to return, Chou said. A meeting was scheduled to be held Monday to discuss the matter.

During the exercise held off the coast of eastern Taiwan in late July, Chang's fleet did not operate in the area planned for the drill but instead sailed toward the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located about 100 km east of Taiwan.

Chang was given a major demerit and removed from his position Aug. 1.

In a statement issued late Friday, the Ministry of National Defense explained that Chang "seriously violated the discipline of the exercise" by changing the exercise plans without permission and refusing to comply with instructions to keep the fleet in a specific area.

The ministry dismissed as "mere fabrication" a report by the United Evening News that a retired Japanese military attache visited the ministry to express his concern following the incident and that the decision to punish Chang was a "kowtow to Japan."

"The handling of the case has nothing to do with Japan," it said.

Expressing disapproval of the ministry's decision, ruling Kuomintang Legislator Lin Yu-fang said Chang should not have been punished. Although Chang's fleet sailed outside Taiwan's ADIZ, it stayed on the high seas and did not intrude into Japanese waters, Lin pointed out.

He argued that the move by the ministry will be considered "cowardly" by the international community.

Chiu Wen-yan, another KMT legislator and an expert in maritime affairs, said Chang's fleet was in fact operating within an exclusive economic zone claimed by Taiwan, which extends beyond a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline of the Tiaoyutai islands proclaimed by the government in 1998.

Punishing Chang is tantamount to relinquishing Taiwan's rights over the area, according to Chiu.

(By Chen Pei-huang, Sherry Tang and Y.F. Low)

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