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ROC military delegation in US has a turbulent history

ROC military delegation in US has a turbulent history

When the former head of ROC’s military delegation to the US, Major General Li Hsien-sheng, returned to Taiwan in March of this year, he underwent a polygraph examination in accordance with standard practice of the Ministry of National Defense (MND). Li failed to pass the polygraph test, allegedly in relation to questions dealing with improper contacts while overseas. The MND modified the questions very carefully and re-administered the test, but Li was still unable to pass after a total of three tries. As a result the MND barred Li from entering the US and replaced him with Rear Admiral Yang Ta-wei earlier this month.

The MND says it is still investigating whether Li’s failure to pass the polygraph examination was due to nervousness or other physiological reasons or whether other factors were involved. He had no trouble getting past the test in the past, and the ministry is now working to ferret out whether there are any suspicious parties among contacts he made since earlier testing.

Li returned to Taiwan in March following the Chinese New Year, and failed to get past the polygraph examination after three tries. He is not allowed to go back to the US until the matter of his security problems has been cleared up, and meanwhile his family has been stranded in their suburban Washington, D.C., home as a result. The MND has consulted with his family members and they have decided, as is their right, to remain in the US awaiting the disposition of Li’s case.

Li was a trusted confidant of former Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu and was an integral part of bilateral military exchanges and interaction with military officers and government officials in the US during his service there. He is therefore familiar with operations of ROC officials there and is privy to sensitive information about US arms sales to the ROC. He has handled many cases involving sensitive information for both the ROC and the US, and his troubles with the polygraph test have people on both sides of the Pacific worried.

The MND is still smarting from the actions of Major General Luo Hsien-che while he was stationed in Thailand. Luo was convicted of serious breaches of military security including discipline problems and spy activity. Thus the ministry has been handling the Li case very cautiously, checking into disciplinary violations and any leaks that may have occurred and seeking the reasons behind his failure of the polygraph test. Meanwhile the US is following developments in the case very closely.

The MND notes that in the interest of national security and the well-being of the ministry it is carrying out all relevant procedures regarding Li and his actions while in the US. At the same time, the ministry has assigned personnel to look after the interests of Li’s family in the US until his case has been handled.

Yang Ta-wei becomes the fourth military officer to occupy the post of head of the ROC military delegation in Washington during the past five years. At one time the delegation was headed by a naval officer with a deputy from the Air Force. At that time the Minister of National Defense also came from a naval background and there were charges that some cases were not aggressively investigated. The situation resulted in a reputation for lax discipline in the military delegation that many people still find difficult to understand.

Heads of the ROC military delegation over the past five years have included Po Chi-lung and Po Hong-hui in addition to Li and Yang, making a total of four different officers. In addition, Tan Chih-lung’s predecessor Chen Ke-chung was recalled to Taiwan after allegations of fraud were raised.

Other problems involving conflicting personalities and relations with superior officers, failure to follow orders and abuse of domestic workers – some of which have been ignored or shelved by higher-ups – have clouded the history of the delegation.

After Army general Kao Hua-chu took over as minister investigation of charges of fraud against Air Force generals were instituted. In addition, a number of discrepancies were found in the selection process for assigning officers overseas. Some officers spoke poor English, and in one case the least qualified of three candidates under consideration was sent to the US. Tan Chih-lung had attempted to expose problems he found in the delegation but ran into interest groups in the Army who managed to have him transferred back to Taiwan and replaced by Air Force General Po Hong-hui.

As head of the delegation to the US Po Hong-hui had the absolute trust of the Air Force command as well as former Minister of National Defense Chen Chao-min and current minister Yan Ming. While he was in charge in Washington, monitoring of returning officers was relaxed, but it has been tightened again recently.

For his part, Li Hsien-sheng has said that he is not afraid of polygraph examinations or any other investigation, saying that he has not been involved in any illegal activities. Li has reportedly applied to the Ministry of National Defense for retirement and is expected to end his military service in September.

Updated : 2021-04-21 06:10 GMT+08:00