Taiwan names new defense, intelligence, China affairs heads (update)

02/19/2021 10:27 PM
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Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) / CNA photo Feb. 19, 2021
Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) / CNA photo Feb. 19, 2021

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Taiwan's Presidential Office on Friday announced a reshuffle of three Cabinet-level officials, replacing the leaders of the Ministry of National Defense, the National Security Bureau and the Mainland Affairs Council.

Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正), director-general of the National Security Bureau, will take over as Minister of Defense, replacing Yen De-fa (嚴德發), who will be given an advisory role on the National Security Council (NSC), Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) head Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) will succeed Chiu as head of the National Security Bureau, while Chiu Tai-san (邱太三), a former NSC advisor, will lead the MAC, he said.

According to Chang, the adjustments are intended to help Taiwan respond to a new phase in regional and international politics, including the emergence of a different geopolitical situation in the post-pandemic era.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) began considering the changes to her national security team before this month's Lunar New Year holiday, and reached a final decision in recent days after consulting with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Chang said.

Regarding the appointment of 67-year-old career military officer Chiu Kuo-cheng as defense minister, Chang said his experience and deep understanding of military strategy and organization made him the ideal candidate for the job at this time.

While leading the National Security Bureau, Taiwan's top intelligence agency, Chiu worked closely with the United States, which will be an asset in future cooperation on national defense issues, according to Chang.

Prior to his time at the NSB, Chiu served as chief of the general staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces and commander of the Army and the Armed Forces Reserve Command, giving him the experience necessary to achieve Tsai's goal of bolstering Taiwan's reservist system, Chang said.

As defense minister, Chiu will be also responsible for seeing through reforms in the areas of asymmetrical warfare, non-traditional threats and joint operations, he said.

Regarding the appointment of Chen Ming-tong to the National Security Bureau, Chang said his experience in the MAC and background in academia made him qualified for the role, which demands a thorough understanding of China.

Chen, 65, holds a doctorate in political science and has spent much of his career as a professor, while also serving as deputy director of the MAC from 2000-2004, and as its director-general from 2007-2008 and again since 2018.

Chiu Tai-san, a 64-year-old former lawmaker and government prosecutor, served as Tsai's minister of justice from 2016 to 2018 and has previously held the number two role at the MAC.

His chief task at the agency will be to preserve cross-strait stability as the world emerges from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Chang.

When asked if the administration was planning additional personnel changes in the near term, Chang replied that such moves are always quickly announced after a decision has been made, and urged the media not to engage in speculation.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Wen Kuei-hsiang, and Matthew Mazzetta)

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