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Military to further downsize armed forces troop numbers to below 200,000

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The number of troops in the R.O.C. armed forces will be further cut down to below 200,000 by the end of 2019, Defense Minister Yen Ming (嚴明) announced late Monday.

Speaking during a dinner with local reporters on Monday night, Yen said the military will undergo a new wave of downsizing from 2015 to 2019 after an ongoing streamlining project is completed by the end of this year.

”We plan to further cut the number of troops to between 170,000 and 190,000 from the 215,000 target for the end of 2014 under the new streamlining program,” he said.

Yen would not confirm that the latest project is to be launched in response to sluggish voluntary soldier recruitment over the past years.

He said the plan has taken many factors into consideration: future types of combat operations, the government budget and weapons in the military's arsenal. The recent inclusion of high-tech weapons systems also gives room to allow the military to further cut its personnel, Yen added.

The defense chief's announcement came in response to a warning issued by the Control Yuan last December over the government's voluntary military plan.

The government watchdog said that the voluntary military transformation could fail, given ongoing sluggish recruitment.

If the transition to an all-volunteer force is a government policy that cannot be changed, the MND should “reconsider its target of a 215,000-strong military,” the Control Yuan said.

The military originally said the R.O.C. armed forces would be downsized to around 215,000 from the current 275,000 as Taiwan is expected to abolish the existing conscription system and replace it with a fully volunteer-based scheme by Jan. 1, 2015,

However, the Defense Ministry announced this September its intention to postpone the abolition of the conscription system by two years to 2017 due to sluggish volunteer recruitment numbers.

Deputy Defense Chief's Son to Serve Alternative Service

Meanwhile, in response to reporters' questions, Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) at the same occasion on Monday said that his son, who has not yet served his compulsory military service, has already returned to Taipei and will fulfill his required duty by serving alternative service this March.

The 63-year-old career diplomat and Taiwan's former top envoy to Indonesia was previously under heavy fire because his 32-year-old son went overseas without performing his duty as an R.O.C. male to serve in the military.

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