Taiwan's military veteran diplomacy soon to have new U.S. role

05/13/2020 02:52 PM
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courtesy of Taiwan
courtesy of Taiwan's representative office in San Francisco

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) Two retired senior military personnel will be stationed for the first time at Taiwan's representative office in the United States before the end of this year to enhance exchanges, the Veterans Affairs Council (VAC) chief confirmed Wednesday.

Speaking at a legislative hearing, VAC head Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said the two were originally scheduled to be stationed in the U.S. in September, but the schedule was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative, to cost an estimated NT$15 million (US$497,429) annually, will station the retired veterans in the defense mission of Taiwan's representative office in Washington D.C., and they will work alongside active military personnel, Feng said.

The office serves as Taiwan's de facto embassy in the U.S. in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

The two appointees, who are required to be VAC members, will receive training for their overseas posts once they have been selected.

Their mission will focus on building closer ties with their U.S. counterparts and taking better care of the Taiwanese veterans currently living in North America and their family members currently living in North America, the VAC said.

Taiwan currently has 24 veterans affairs organizations in the U.S. and Canada, where an estimated 4,966 Taiwanese live, according to VAC figures.

They will also participate in veterans affairs activities in the U.S. to improve the country's visibility on the world stage, especially in terms of the contributions it made during World War II, the VAC said.

One of the two veterans to be posted in Washington D.C. is required to have served as a military attache or deputy attache overseas and held a military rank above colonel/captain before retiring.

According to Feng, the VAC has chosen a retired Air Force Colonel for one of the two overseas positions, and it will ask the Ministry of National Defense to come up with a short list to fill the remaining vacancy.

Feng said the new project was launched after representatives of American Veterans or AMVETS, a U.S. veterans service organization, visited Taiwan in 2019 and called for the establishment of a VAC overseas branch in the U.S.

To provide a legal basis for the new assignment, the Executive Yuan amended the Organization Act of Veterans Affairs Council on April 30 to allow the VAC to send its staff overseas. The amendment still has to clear the Legislative Yuan before taking effect.

The Cabinet-level VAC was founded in 1954 to offer educational, employment assistance, medical care, home care and other general services for retired servicemen and women from the Republic of China Armed Forces.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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