Taiwan defense chief says no TSMC engineer evacuation in wargames

10/12/2022 03:24 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 12 (CNA) None of the wargame scenarios conducted by the nation's armed forces have included the evacuation of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) engineers to the United States in the event of a Chinese invasion, Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) said on Wednesday.

"Currently none of the wargames we held have included that scenario (of evacuating TSMC engineers to the U.S.)," Chiu told reporters on the sideline of a legislative session.

"We have only ourselves to rely on in terms of defending our country, and everything we have done so far is to exercise a high degree of self-restraint to prevent a war from breaking out (across the Taiwan Strait)," he said.

Chiu made the remarks when asked to comment on a Bloomberg report on Friday which cited unnamed American officials as disclosing that Washington had accelerated preparation for an action plan in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, with the main focus being the fate of the island's cutting-edge chip industry.

The contingency planning has intensified after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the report said.

All scenarios place increased strategic importance on TSMC, the world's largest contract chipmaker, and in the worst-case scenario, the U.S. will consider evacuating the company's highly-skilled engineers, sources familiar with the discussions in the Joe Biden administration told Bloomberg.

On Wednesday, reporters asked Chiu if the evacuation of TSMC engineers had been part of its military wargames scenarios, given that the U.S. has regularly sent officials to observe Taiwan's annual drill, the Han Kuang series of exercises.

Asked to comment on the same Bloomberg report, Taiwan's top intelligence chief Chen Ming-tong (陳明通), when fielding questions during the same legislative session with Chiu, told lawmakers that it would be extremely difficult to replicate TSMC as the semiconductor giant is not just about its engineers.

"TSMC is about a whole system and you cannot simply relocate it," Chen said.

Previously commenting on the report, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) said in a Saturday press release that China should understand that Taiwan's economy has become interwoven with that of the world's and China's.

"For the entire world, the stability and security of the Taiwan Strait is the best supply chain investment," it added.

Meanwhile, answering questions during Wednesday's legislative session, Chiu pledged that conscripts who had already completed their required four-month military training would not be asked to return to the armed forces to serve another eight months if the military ultimately decided to extend mandatory military training to one year.

Chiu made the remarks when asked by lawmakers about the military's ongoing discussions on extending the service period to meet the rising threat from China.

Chiu reiterated that whether to extend the four-month mandatory military training for conscripts to one year or longer was still being discussed, and the final decision would likely be announced before the end of this year.

After a decision is made, the new rule will take effect one year later, he has previously said.

All Taiwanese men over 18 initially had to serve two to three years in the military as part of a conscription system adopted by the Republic of China government after it relocated to Taiwan in 1949 following the Chinese Civil War.

After 1996, conscription was gradually reduced and became one year in duration in 2008.

During the previous Kuomintang administration under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which governed from 2008-2016, the government turned the nation's military into a voluntary force in which conscripts were only required to undergo four months of military training, starting in 2013.

The nation's military is currently a mainly volunteer force, with conscripts serving in a supporting role.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)

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