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September 22, 2017

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Defense minister gives full marks to Air Force

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Despite the discovery of Category 1 drugs on a base in Taichung and positive tests among personnel for illicit substance use, Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan Thursday confidently gave the Air Force "full marks" for performance.

Feng — who last year notably awarded himself "100 out of 100" in the wake of a string of scandals, including the accidental discharge of an anti-ship missile that killed a fisherman — told reporters outside the Legislative Yuan that "a minister who gets a full 100 probably leads a force with the same marks," when quizzed about allegations of drug use among Air Force personnel.

Officials from the Taichung District Prosecutors' Office stated Wednesday that eight airmen had tested positive for Category 1 drugs — including morphine — as part of a round of tests conducted on 27 service personnel who tested positive on an earlier test that screened 2,000 employees at the base.

The positive tests came after more than 50 packages containing amphetamines and ketamine were found at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base (清泉崗空軍基地) in Taichung last Monday. The case has since been handed over to prosecutors for further investigation.

Feng said he was confident that drugs were not a problem in the Air Force, before adding that substance abuse was an issue faced not just by the armed forces but also society at large.

The defense minister said that measures were being taken to reduce these types of incidents.

Cold Remedies Could Lead to Positive Results

Asked to explain the positive test, Feng said: "If one looks at this from a professional standpoint, from what I know, after (the military personnel) took cough medicine it produced differing reactions. This is not amphetamines upgrading into heroin."

Responding to reports that 250 personnel were not on the base during the tests, the minister said those taking leave or training off-site had been accounted for and would all undergo testing once they returned to the base.

Meanwhile, echoing Feng's explanation, Lt. Gen. Wu Yi-Chang (吳怡昌), head of the military's medical affairs bureau, told lawmakers that cold remedies containing codeine could also have caused a positive result for morphine.

He denied media reports that the eight who tested positive had been caught using drugs, stressing that only a very small amount of abnormalities had been found in the latest tests.

"As doctors we can only determine whether the test is positive or negative and it is for prosecutors and judges to decide whether they were using drugs."

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