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Taiwan still optimistic about shifting to all-volunteer military

ROC Central News Agency

2015/08/27 22:49:40

Taipei, Aug. 27 (CNA) Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense on Thursday expressed optimism over its plan to shift to an all-volunteer force by 2017, after it decided recently to push back the target date for ending conscription.

During a press event, Defense Minister Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻) said that the military will continue its plan to push for a volunteer-military system.

Citing statistics, he said the military recruited about 15,000 volunteer soldiers last year, more than its original target.

So far this year, it has recruited more than 10,000, he said, adding that he believes the final recruitment number for the year would exceed the target originally set.

Kao's remarks came two days after the Defense Ministry unexpectedly announced that it would continue to draft eligible citizens born before the end of 1993, enlisting another 23,100 soldiers, with the approval of the Cabinet.

The plan was revised because the military does not expect to meet its target for recruiting volunteer troops at the end of 2016, it said, but it denied that its plan to introduce volunteer troops had failed.

The ministry's original plan had been to end conscription after 2015 and to discharge the newest conscripts after one year of service, at the end of 2016, leaving an all-volunteer force.

Those who were unable to enlist before the end of this year for valid reasons will be assigned to alternative service for a year, according to the ministry.

The change of plan by the ministry has been described in some media reports as a "bounced check," but Kao reiterated that the ministry's plan had always involved a mixed force of volunteers and conscripts.

Kao also stressed that men born after Jan. 1, 1994 are to remain exempt from compulsory military service and would be required to undergo four months of military training instead.

Taiwan plans to shift to an all-volunteer force by 2017. It originally planned for the transition to be completed by 2015, but had pushed the date back due to lower-than-expected recruitment numbers.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou)

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