Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) Military prosecutors have decided not to charge Rear Admiral Chang Feng-chiang for sailing his fleet out of a designated area during a military exercise in late July or for disobeying orders, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced Monday.
The ministry said in a statement that prosecutors were unable to find evidence that Chang had defied orders, refused to accept tactical tests, or failed to execute planned maneuvers during the exercises in waters off eastern Taiwan on July 25-26.
The prosecutors office concluded that it could not clearly determine if Chang had violated regulations in the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces that require commanders not to leave assigned areas and require subordinates to obey orders, the statement said.
During the annual Navy exercise held to test the country's warfare capabilities in marine battles, Chang had his Yilan-based 168th Fleet sail beyond Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone toward the Japanese island of Yonaguni, about 100 kilometers east of Taiwan, raising an alarm in Japan.
Japan sent P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft to hover over the fleet while it sailed in waters near Yonaguni, according to Naval Inspector-General Chou Mei-wu on Aug. 8.
Naval officials at the ground command center did not discover the blunder in time and did not instruct Chang's fleet to return to the designated area, Chou said.
The Navy gave Chang a major demerit and transferred him to another post for "serious discipline violations" as commander of the fleet, while other officers were given demerits for failing to discover the mistake in time.
In the meantime, the case was handed to military prosecutors to determine if Chang had violated the armed forces criminal code.
The disciplinary action against Chang triggered public debate, however, with some lawmakers questioning the punishment as being too harsh.
The commander also insisted on his innocence, saying that there were no rules stipulating that his fleet should not sail out of the Air Defense Identification Zone.
Under pressure, the Navy decided to revoke the major demerit given to Chang and promised to review the other penalties it handed down against officers who have also been held responsible for the incident.
(By Chen Pei-huang and Elizabeth Hsu)