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Defense Minister Chen apologizes for 3/19 gaffe

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- General Chen Chao-min, minister of national defense, apologized yesterday for a gaffe about the mystery-shrouded shooting in Tainan on March 19, 2004.

He told a press conference at the Armed Forces Officers’ Club in the morning he was sorry to cause “some turmoil” by testifying at a Legislative Yuan committee meeting last Wednesday ex-President Chen Shui-bian was not wounded on Chinhua Street in Tainan on the afternoon of that fateful day.

Ex-President Chen was shot at 2:30 p.m. on the Tainan street. One homemade bullet grazed his abdomen, but the shooting was rumored as an assassination attempt orchestrated by Beijing on the eve of the presidential election of 2004.

Sympathy votes helped ex-President Chen get re-elected.

“All I said,” General Chen told reporters, “was a quote from the investigation report of the Truth Commission.”

He was on the commission, created by the Legislative Yuan despite opposition from President Chen to conduct an independent inquiry to find out the truth about the mysterious shooting incident.

The report did not rule out the possibility that President Chen had stage-managed the shooting. His vice president, Annette Lu, was riding in the same open jeep with him in an election campaign cavalcade. She was shot in the knee. Lu has repeatedly called for another investigation.

“For the trouble I caused because of my faux pas, I offer my sincere apology,” General Chen said. He added he was sorry for the remarks that are “detrimental to the good repute” of the armed forces he commands.

“I humbly accept any criticism from the public,” General Chen said, adding, “I hope I could put this unhappy incident behind and I will not make any more comment on it from now on.”

Chen wants “the curtain to fall in peace.” It may not.

Hsu Kuo-yung, a former Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker, is ready to file a slander suit against General Chen on behalf of President Chen today.

On learning of General Chen’s uncalled-for testimony at the Legislative Yuan committee meeting, the ex-president declared he would be suing his former commander-in-chief of the air force and deputy defense minister for slander. The defense minister did not have to answer questions that have nothing to do with defense.

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 Defense Minister Chen apologizes for 3/19 gaffe 
General Chen Chao-min, minister of national defense, bows while apologizing for a gaffe about the mysterious shooting in Tainan on March 19, 2004. He offered an open apology at a press conference at the Armed Forces Officers’ Club in Taipei yesterday. (CNA)

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