Back to list

Yen chosen as new defense minister for his experience: official

2018/02/23 20:22:43

Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發/CNA file photo)

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發) has been tapped as Taiwan's new defense minister because of his rich knowledge and experience in the field of national security, an administration source told CNA Friday.

The Cabinet announced Friday afternoon that Yen, the incumbent National Security Council secretary-general, will replace Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) to become the nation's new defense chief next Monday.

Yen is a retired three-star Army general and decorated officer who has served various important posts in the military, including as chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and vice defense minister.

He will become the first defense minister in Taiwan's history who has both served as NSC head and as chief of the General Staff.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) picked Yen based on the national security experience he gained from his time in the NSC and the Army, which has equipped him with the knowledge and skills needed to deal with international relations and national strategy, an official told CNA.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the selection of Yen reflects the emphasis Tsai has placed on building Taiwan's defense capacity with the help of people experienced in homeland security and in national security governance.

Alexander Huang (黃介正), an associate professor in the Department of Diplomacy and International Relations at Tamkang University, said Friday's reshuffle of Taiwan's national security apparatus, including the choice of Yen, was more cosmetic than substantive.

"It's just an administrative adjustment. It does not mean any change in Tsai's diplomatic, cross-strait, or defense policy," he said.

"It is only a refresh, not a rejuvenation, of the Cabinet."

As an officer, Yen is best known for the disaster relief efforts of his Kaohsiung-based 8th Army Corps in August 2009 following Typhoon Morakot, one of the worst natural disasters to hit Taiwan in recent decades.

Yen has served as the de facto head of the NSC since May 2017.

Meanwhile, Feng will become the head of a soon-to-be-launched think tank to be called the "Institute for National Security Studies" (國防安全研究院).

Founded by the Defense Ministry, the semi-official organization will focus on the study of the Chinese military after it is established in May, according to Taiwan's military.

According to the source, appointing Feng to lead the Institute for National Security Studies was part of Tsai's plan to enhance the nation's defense capabilities.

The official said the 72-year-old Feng was able to step down at this time after completing the mission given to him when Tsai took office in May 2016, which was to maintain stability during the transition of power to a new Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.

He had already been retired from the service with the rank of general for 10 years when he was picked for the job, allowing him to detach himself from infighting between different military branches.

That allowed him to facilitate harmony between military branches upon his return, the official said.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Joseph Yeh)