Taipei, Aug. 26 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Wednesday denied media reports that it was backpedaling on its plan to convert Taiwan's military into an all-volunteer force, saying that it had only extended the target date.
The MND announced Tuesday that it would continue to draft eligible citizens born before the end of 1993, enlisting another 23,100 soldiers, with the approval of the Cabinet.
The plan was revised because of an assessment that the military does not expect to meet its target for troops at the end of 2016, the MND said, but it denied that its plan to introduce volunteer troops had failed.
In fact, the percentage of volunteer troops in Taiwan's military by the end of next year will be around 90 percent, the ministry said.
It was decided, therefore, that enlistment will continue this year for the Republic of China armed forces until an all-volunteer force (AVF) could be achieved, the MND said.
The ministry's original plan had been to end conscription after 2015 and to discharge the newest conscripts after one year of service, at the end of 2016, leaving an AVF.
Those who were unable to enlist before the end of this year for valid reasons were to be assigned to alternative service for a year, according to the MND.
The change of plan by the MND has been described in some media reports as a "bounced check," but the ministry said its plan always involved a mixed force of volunteers and conscripts.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), meanwhile, said the MND's efforts to create an AVF were a failure.
The DPP thinks the country needs to find an "ideal system," somewhere between all-volunteer and conscription, which could be termed as an "improved volunteer" system, said DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬).
It is not possible for Taiwan to go back to a full conscription system, but the path toward an AVF is full of challenges stemming from a low birth rate and financial problems, Cheng said.
(By Claudia Liu and Elizabeth Hsu)