Military remains effective despite downsizing: Ma
By Joseph Yeh ,The China Post
January 24, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday said that the military's plan to further downsize the number of the R.O.C. armed forces' troops will not affect Taiwan's long-term self-defensive objective.
Speaking during a luncheon with military personnel in Taipei ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, Ma said the troop-to-population ratio in Taiwan now stands at 0.93 percent amid an ongoing military streamlining project that is set to be completed by the end of this year.
However, the ratio, meaning less than 1 percent of Taiwan's total population are military personnel, is still relatively high in comparison with other countries in the world, the president said.
Ma said that there is still room for further downsizing of R.O.C. armed forces, adding that cutting troop numbers will not affect the nation's ability to defend itself.
The nation used to have more than 600,000 military personnel when the R.O.C. government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, Ma said. Back then, Taiwan's total population only stood around 6 million, equaling a 10-percent troop-to-population ratio.
The number of Taiwanese troops has continued to be reduced since 1998 when the military first launched a streamlining project, Ma said.
By the end of 2014 at the conclusion of the ongoing downsizing project, the R.O.C. armed forces will be reduced to around 215,000.
As Taiwan is scheduled to transform into a full-voluntary military, the R.O.C. armed forces no longer need to have as many military personnel as it used to have, though it will still maintain a force that is relatively small in size but strong in defense capability, the president noted.
MND's New Downsize Plan
Ma's comments came as a response to Defense Minister Yen Ming's (嚴明) announcement earlier this week that said 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.
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.
He said the plan has taken many factors into consideration: future types of combat operations, 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.
Yen, however, would not confirm that the latest project is to be launched in response to sluggish voluntary soldier recruitment over the past years.