Navy disciplines officials for blunder in drill
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 6 (CNA) The Navy said Monday it has disciplined officials responsible for warships going off course during a military drill in late July, but it denied that the punishment was tied to "external factors."
Countering media speculation that Rear Adm. Chang Feng-chiang was the only one punished for the mistake, Naval Inspector-General Chou Mei-wu said other Navy officials have also been given demerits for failing to discover the blunder in time and instruct Chang's fleet to return to the designated area.
The Navy formed a task force to look into the cause of a Navy fleet sailing off its designated course during the drill, and gave Chang a major demerit for "serious violations of discipline," said Chou.
An initial investigation showed that Chang did not follow the pre-set plan to direct his fleet to remain in waters from east to southern Taiwan, Chou told a news conference, days after the incident surfaced in the local media.
When conducting the drill on July 25-26, Chang did not obtain approval from the ground command center before changing course, Chou added.
Because the drill was only a short two-day operation at sea, it was imperative that the fleet remain in the planned area during the drill, Chou said.
The Navy task force is still looking into the case and reviewing the disciplinary action taken against those responsible, Chou said, noting that further adjustments may be made.
It was reported that Chang's fleet sailed out of the planned area of the military exercises and moved toward the Japanese island of Yonaguni, about 100 kilometers east of Taiwan, raising an alert in Japan.
On the question of whether Chang was disciplined under pressure from Japan, Adm. Tung Hsiang-lung, chief of the Navy, dismissed such a possibility.
He also denied speculation that Chang received a major demerit and was removed from his post because his action went against the spirit of President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea Peace Initiative, which was announced Sunday.
The initiative calls for a peaceful mechanism to address the territorial dispute over the Tiaoyutai Islands with Japan and China.
"This is a case that simply involves drill discipline," Tung stressed.
According to the Navy, the case has been brought to military prosecutors.
Meanwhile, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he confirmed that Japan's naval officials have asked Taiwanese officials stationed in Japan about the Taiwanese fleet going off course.
After Taiwan explained that the maneuvers were regular exercises and that the government would look further into the case, Luo said, Japan did not express any further opinion on the issue.
(By Elaine Hou)
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