Taiwan’s military has undergone a major reshuffle among its top brass with naval officials rising to top positions — which could bode well for the service in future budgets. The turnover marks the first time the Navy has taken the top slot of minister of defense since Adm. Lee Jye served from 2004-7.
Former Army and Air Force officers have dominated the post since then and budget allocations have favored these services over the Navy, including billion-dollar packages for new AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and a midlife upgrade for the F-16 fleet. Now the Navy wants to steer future budgets toward funding new builds of submarines and possibly destroyers.
The Jan. 27 resignation of National Defense Minister Yen Ming also lacks the conspiratorial or scandal-laden atmosphere of past leadership reshuffles. The chief of the General Staff, Adm. Kao Kuang-chi, replaced Yen, a former Air Force general, in an atmosphere of goodwill.
Lin Chong-Pin, a former deputy defense minister and vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said it was a good initiative and Kao and Yen are “both capable and professional officers.”
Adm. Li Hsi-ming replaced Adm. Chen Yeong-kang as Navy chief, while Chen became a strategic adviser to President Ma Ying-jeou. Army commander Gen. Yen De-fa succeeded Kao. Deputy Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng became the Army commander.
The administrative deputy defense minister, Lt. Gen. Shen Yi-ming, was promoted to general and named Air Force commander, replacing Liu Chen-wu, who became deputy defense minister.
Kao’s rise to the top allows the Navy to address past grievances over the defense budget.