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Navy relieves commander over drill blooper

The Navy yesterday announced that it has recently relieved the post of a fleet commander who has failed to execute a drill as planned. The announcement came after the fleet was reported to have nearly intruded into Japanese waters, drawing attention and concern from the Japanese and United States militaries.

Commander Chang Feng-chiang (張鳳強) of the 168th Fleet based in eastern Yilan County was punished for failing to effectively carry out an annual drill held late-July in the waters off Eastern Taiwan, the Navy said in a released statement.

The serious flaw violated drill discipline and thus Chang was given a major demerit in addition to being removed from the fleet's top position, it said.

The Navy has also taken measures to punish those personnel accountable for not carrying out the drill as planned. A task force has been formed and military prosecutors are currently investigating the case, the statement added.

The Navy's remarks came amid a Chinese-language newspaper report yesterday that accused Chang, head of the naval fleet based in Suao Township, Yilan, of failing to direct his fleet to remain within the planned area for the drill.

Instead, the fleet sailed toward the waters near Yonaguni, an island of Japan, which lies more than 100 kilometers from the East Coast of Taiwan, a move that raised the attention of Japan and the U.S., the Apply Daily said.

The near intrusion to Japanese waters came at a sensitive moment following the sovereignty row between Taiwan, Japan and China over the Tiaoyutais.

Chang Should Not Be Punished: Sources

Following the Navy's announcement, the Chinese-language United Evening News (UNE) yesterday quoted military sources that blasted the military's decision to have Chang punished.

Sources told the UNE that Chang made reports to the Navy Headquarters when his fleet was sailing near the Japanese waters during the July drill but the Navy did not ask his fleet to head back to Taiwan.

Following the incident, a retired Japanese military attache visited Taiwan's Ministry of Defense to express concern over the case but did not lodge a protest, the report said.

Defense Minister Kao Hua-chun later decided to relieve Chang of duty pending further investigation, it said.

Military sources said Chang should not be punished since the 168th Fleet was sailing in international waters during the drill and did not intrude into Japanese waters.

Sources alleged that the ministry's decision was made under Japanese pressure, the report said.

Asked to comment, military spokesman Luo Shou-he said yesterday that the disciplinary actions were not done “to please any country,” but were made based on the initial investigation results made by the Navy.

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