Taiwan Defense Minister Yang Resigns After 6 Days in Office

Taiwan’s defense minister resigned six days into the job after acknowledging plagiarism in a 2007 book, adding to complications for President Ma Ying-jeou as his government deals with anger over the death of a conscript.

Ma accepted Andrew Yang’s resignation after discussions with Premier Jiang Yi-huah, according to an e-mailed statement from the president’s office late yesterday. Chief of General Staff Yen Ming will replace Yang, Ma’s administration said. Acting minister Kao Kuang-chi will take Yen’s post, the United Daily News reported today.

Yang apologized for a “personal mistake” and stepped down after acknowledging that parts of a 2007 book produced by a ghostwriter were plagiarized from a magazine story first published in China, the Central News Agency reported yesterday, citing comments Yang made to reporters. Defense Ministry spokesman David Lo didn’t return two calls seeking comment.

Yang’s departure deals a blow to President Ma as he battles low popularity ratings and seeks to restructure a military that has long relied on conscription to maintain its ranks. Ma’s approval rating fell again to a record low of 13 percent in a poll conducted July 29 by TVBS, from 14 percent in May.

Yang, the Ma administration’s first civilian defense minister, succeeded Kao Hua-chu, who resigned last month after weeks of media criticism and public demonstrations over the military investigation of the death of army conscript Hung Chung-chiu while in solitary confinement. Prosecutors indicted 18 officers on July 31 and legislators yesterday passed a law requiring civilian trials for military offenses committed during peacetime, CNA reported.

Military Reforms

“The protests calling for an investigation into the death of Hung and resignation of two defense ministers point to the challenges to Ma’s military reforms,” said Liao Da-chi, a director at the Institute of Political Science at the National Sun Yat-sen University.

Tens of thousands protested against the government last weekend, the Associated Press reported, over the death of 24-year-old Hung while he was being punished for bringing an illicit mobile phone into his barracks.

A lawmaker first asked Yang about his published works at an Aug. 1 meeting, followed by a media inquiry yesterday about the allegation, the Taipei-based Liberty Times reported. Yang’s article, two-thirds of which was lifted from an article by U.S.- based researcher Richard Fisher, Jr., appeared in an anthology edited by Yang entitled “Ready for the D-Day” about a potential conflict between the People’s Liberation Army and Taiwan’s military, according to the newspaper.

All Volunteers

The government plans to restructure the military and convert its conscripted armed forces into an all-volunteer military by the end of next year, while coming up with new funding sources, retired general Herman Shuai said in an interview in late July.

Yang’s brief tenure shows “Taiwan is not ready for a civilian defense minister,” Lawrence Gao, a lawmaker with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said by phone. “During Ma’s term we may not have another civilian defense minister.”

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