Taiwan: discussion on conscription

The proposal by oppositional Taiwanese presidential candidate Ma Ying-yeou to phase out conscription in Taiwan and turn the Taiwanese military into an all-volunteer military by 2014 met with careful agreement from the Ministry of Defense of the country, and sparked a debate about conscription.

"The biggest advantage of an all-volunteer force is that the majority of male citizens of conscriptable age won't be drafted. This means they can make a contribution to society in the fields of business, industry and especially in high-tech [fields]," Ma said, unveiling his defense white paper at a press conference in Kaohsiung.

MND spokesperson Major General Yu Sy-tue said that Ma's scheme should be made more complete and concise before it is put into practice. "The existing system for recruiting flesh blood to the military uses both conscription and volunteer systems. My ministry agrees with the proposal to change the system into a full-scale mercenary, however, it has to be done under careful considerations especially on the nation's financial condition," Yu said.

However, these plans should not be mistaken for disarmament. They are linked to the promise that future military spending should be no less than 3 percent of the nation's gross domestic products.

According to the MND official, the country currently needs about 200,000 military personnel. He said that if the recruitment system is to change, the new plan will have to make sure it meets the MND's manpower needs.

"Before changing into a full-scale volunteer system, we have to make sure that there will be enough to attract young people to join the armed forces. The military will be able to draw attention from the youngsters once the salary, promotion system and welfare are attractive," he remarked.

Sources: Taiwan News, 3 September 2007, Taipei Times, 3 September 2007