President Tsai’s appointing Yeh as Taiwan national security figure signals dramatic change of attitude

Tsai and Yeh have long been known to be at odds with each other

Yeh Kuo-hsing (葉國興)

Yeh Kuo-hsing (葉國興) (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The appointment of Yeh Kuo-hsing (葉國興) as deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC) on Feb. 22 may indicate a change of attitude and strategic shift by President Tsai Ing-wen, who is known to have been at odds with the former cabinet secretary-general, reports said.

A source revealed that Tsai and Yeh have not been on speaking terms for more than a decade due to their disagreement over a number of issues, one of them being cross-strait policies, sparking speculation about the motivation behind Tsai’s decision to recruit the old hand in Taiwan’s politics. Yeh had served in a prominent role in the administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who governed Taiwan from 2000 to 2008, reported the Storm Media.

Faced with unfavorable political situations, partly triggered by the rout suffered by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during the nine-in-one elections last November, Tsai has taken heed of criticisms and advice both from her own party and others by moving to reshuffle her crew for national security, a pivotal area for a country confronted with growing threats internationally, the report argued.

“The only reason for Tsai and Yeh to put aside old feuds and work together in the government is for the greater good of Taiwan,” Central News Agency quoted the source familiar with both persons. In fact, it took Yeh some time to consider Tsai’s offer, which was proposed in January.

Yeh, 66, has earned a reputation as a resourceful and decisive person, whose capabilities to act quickly to emergencies were tested during the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2011. It was Yeh who, during his stint as the cabinet spokesman, pushed for the establishment of an anti-terror office under the auspices of the Executive Yuan in 2004, wrote CNA.

It may sound surprising that Yeh, a Kaohsiung-born salesperson-turned businessman, is also a linguist well-versed in multiple languages, including English, Japanese, French, Spanish, and Russian. He used to speak fluent French in a Legislative Yuan session, which stunned legislators across the political spectrum who were present.

“As a friend, I can only wish him the best for taking up the national security post,” reckoned Chung-Hua Institution Economic Research fellow Chang Jung-feng (張榮豐), who has also been absent from the political scene for a long time.

“There could hardly be any reason except a strong sense of calling for him to make the move,” he added, noting that challenges are ahead with the presidential election looming and the factor of U.S.-China confrontation weighing in, reported CNA.