All-volunteer force ambitions hit another bump in the road

08/16/2016 04:10 PM
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Taipei, Aug. 16 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense announced Tuesday that it will continue to draft eligible citizens in 2017, the second time it has pushed back the target date for ending conscription as Taiwan tries to shift to an all-volunteer force.

To maintain a force large enough to defend the country, the ministry will require 9,600 men born before 1993 to perform a year of military service, said Lt. Gen. Hsu Yen-pu (徐衍璞), who is responsible for the military's human resources, at a news conference.

The military'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 all-volunteer force, though Taiwanese men would still be required to undergo four months of mandatory military training.

But in 2015, the ministry unexpectedly announced that it would continue to draft eligible citizens born before the end of 1993 to enlist another 23,100 soldiers for a year of military service in 2016.

The plan was revised because the military does not expect to meet its target for recruiting volunteer troops at the end of 2016, but the ministry stressed that the policy of moving toward an all-volunteer force remained unchanged.

Those who were unable to enlist before the end of this year for valid reasons will be assigned to alternative service for a year, according to the ministry.

As for those who were born after 1994, they will remain exempt from one-year compulsory military service, but will still be required to undergo a mandatory four-month military training upon reaching conscription age, Hsu said.

In response to questions whether the ministry could extend the year of military service to 2018, Hsu said only that his ministry will conduct a thorough review of the military's manpower before making a decision.

Once volunteer soldiers and officers reach the target of 90 percent of total military personnel, the ministry will officially end conscription, Hsu said.

The ministry had said previously that Taiwan plans to shift to an all-volunteer force by 2017. It originally planned for the transition to be completed by 2015, but the date was pushed back due to lower-than-expected recruitment numbers.

(By Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/ls

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