Taiwan's defense chief exits in Cabinet reshuffle

Kao Hua-chu

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Defence Minister Kao Hua-chu is stepping down as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said in a press conference.

The premier made the announcement in less than five minutes and then immediately left the press room without taking any questions from reporters or elaborating on Kao's resignation.

With Kao leaving the post, Deputy Defence Minister Andrew Yang will take the helm of the Ministry of National Defence (MND). Kao first requested to resign in mid-July following widespread anger over the death of Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu.

President Ma Ying-jeou initially refused to accept Kao's resignation when he first offered it.

Kao has repeatedly apologised to the nation over Hung's death and made several visits to the corporal's family.

In an interview, Ma praised Kao's hard work during his tenure as MND chief, lauding him for offering his condolences to the Hung family immediately after touching down in Taiwan after an overseas trip.

"During that time, we thought that uncovering the truth behind the incident was the most important thing, so we paid more attention to that. But we also understood that the defence minister would take ultimate responsibility for the incident and we were all pretty much prepared (for Kao's resignation)."

Mixed Opinions

Hung's family sounded a much different tone over Kao's resignation.

"It's not really relevant who steps down or who steps up, I only want the truth behind my brother's death," said the corporal's sister, Hung Tzu-yung.

"Yang(Kao's replacement) will hopefully be able to give us a satisfying answer where justice is served."

The chief of National Taiwan University Hospital's Traumatology Department, Ko Wen-je, was also not impressed by Kao's resignation.

"This is not what we want from the government," he said. "We want an apology, the truth and reports on how to create a better military environment."

Cabinet Reshuffle

Joyce Feng, a professor at National University's Department of Social Work, will become a minister without portfolio and supervise the work of social welfare operations. She will replace Steven Chen, who will take the reigns as minister of the Overseas Community Affairs Council.

Navy Commander Tung Hsiang-lung will succeed Tseng Jin-ling as the head of the Veterans Affairs Commission.

The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) will be headed by the current Political Deputy Minister of Ministry of Finance Tseng Ming-Chung, while the Council of Indigenous Peoples will be headed by current Deputy Minister Lin Chiang-Yi.

Deputy Minister Yan Jeou-Rong of the Public Construction Commission will step up as minister, replacing chief Chen Cheng-chuan, who will return to his previous career in academia.

There is speculation that Tseng - the new minister of the FSC, who is succeeding current Minister Chen Yu-chang (陳裕璋) - was appointed due to his relatively innovative ideas and nimbleness on local financial trade issues.

Although Chen Yu-chang has been a highly visible and influential part of the Ma administration, reports have claimed that his conservative position regarding Taiwan trade and finance issues have drawn complaints from corporate leaders, which led to his resignation.

Presidential Office spokeswoman Lee Chia-fei said that the decisions were made after discussions between Jiang and Ma.

"Some ministers were originally professors from universities and their scheduled periods of government service have ended," Jiang said.

"Others were appointed for specific missions, which also have been completed.

"The Cabinet hopes that this reshuffle will result in a team of Cabinet members that can better serve the country and enhance public welfare."

According to Cabinet officials, the reshuffle, which involves seven Cabinet posts, will take effect on Aug. 1.