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June 28, 2017

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Plan B needed for voluntary military: defense chief

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Contingency plans are needed to make the full voluntary military transformation successful and to take place on schedule, the defense minister said yesterday.

Speaking during a legislative hearing yesterday in Taipei, Minister Kao Hua-chu said his ministry will stick to the government's plan to abolish the current system and replace it with a fully voluntary one by the end of 2014.

Contingency measures need to be prepared by all related government branches, however, because the military system change is not the sole responsibility of the defense ministry, Kao added.

The minister made the remarks in response to lawmakers' questions on whether Kao is confident that the full voluntary service push can be reached on scheduled.

According to ruling Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Lin Yu-fang, the military's voluntary service transformation has faced sluggish recruitment over the past year.

Also, most of the men and women who have signed up to serve in the military so far have decided to join noncombat units instead of combat units, a warning that warrants the military's attention.

So far this year 1,452 people have signed up to serve in the Army's combat units, just less than 50 percent of the target for 2012.

In contrast, a total of 828 have decided to join the Army's noncombat units so far, greatly exceeding the original 599 it needed, Lin said.

Asked to comment, Kao said he still hopes the goal to transform local armed forces into fully voluntary can be reached on time despite the bleak outlook.

More efforts need to be done not just by his ministry but also by other government branches, including offering incentives and benefits to boost recruitment, he said.

Female Drivers

During the same legislative session yesterday, the Democratic Progressive Party's Hsueh Ling raised concerns over the military's plan to assign female soldiers to serve as military vehicle drivers for high-ranking officers, saying the move could pose a potential threat to these women in the light of rising sexual harassment cases in the armed forces.

In response to Hsueh's concern, Kao said his ministry will keep a close eye on protecting female military personnel's rights.

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