Taiwan president declines defense minister's resignation

Taiwan president declines defense minister's resignation
Taiwan Defence Minister Kao Kuang-chi bows in apology during a press conference in Taipei on April 7, 2015.

TAIPEI - National Defence Minister Kao Kuang-chi offered to resign amid the unfolding Apache scandal yesterday, but was retained by President Ma Ying-jeou.

According to Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen, Ma retained Kao in order to show his priority is on consolidating discipline in the armed forces and maintaining morale and combat readiness.

The recent spate of disciplinary punishments of officers implicated in the scandal - in which foreign nationals and civilians were granted unauthorized access to sensitive military equipment by an R.O.C. Army officer - continued yesterday as the president and the Ministry of National Defence (MND) disciplined higher-ranking officers within the military hierarchy.

Ma Briefed on Consolidating Military Discipline

Earlier in the day, Army Special Forces Lt. Gen. Chen Chien-tsai was removed from his post and transferred to the Army Central Command.

Later in the afternoon, seven active-duty generals arrived at the Presidential Office to brief Ma on current efforts being made to maintain and improve the current state of military discipline.

After the briefing, the Presidential Office announced new disciplinary actions against Army Commander Chiu Kuo-cheng with two demerits, and one demerit for Chief of General Staff, Gen. Yen Teh-fa. Both officers' demerits were issued in regard to "unsatisfactory oversight."

Army to Reevaluate Pension Policies

Following the multiple major demerits issued to Lt. Col. Lao Nai-cheng for his role in the Apache scandal, members of the military entourage briefing the president also announced proposed changes to Army pension policies. Under current military regulations, Lao is still entitled to receive a retirement pension (estimated at NT$2 million, (S$87,000))

Under the proposed changes, officers who accrue two major demerits will see a reduction to their retirement pensions. Officers with demerits still serving in the military would also need to refund the government for the military training funded by the state.

'Villa 32' Illegal Improvements Cited

Meanwhile, "Villa 32" , a Beitou-based resort run by the family of Lao's wife Chiu Ya-ching, has been cited by Taipei officials for illegally added improvements. The resort, which has been reported for illegal improvements since 2011 for first-, second- and third-story violations, avoided being dismantled after a deal was brokered with city councilors.

Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je threatened to dismantle the resort if the necessary changes were not made. The Taipei City Construction Management Office (建管處) stated that the operators have 20 days to comply with existing building codes.

In addition to the illegal developments, city officials are also investigating allegations that "Villa 32" owners violated regulations with regard to the use of hot spring water as stipulated in the "Hot Springs Act" passed in 2003. Usage of hot spring-sourced water without a permit is subject to fines ranging from NT$50,000-250,000. The city will issue its findings later today.

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