Taiwan military delays plan to scrap conscription
Taiwanese soldiers at the Hualien army base on January 23, 2013. Taiwan's military has delayed plans to become an all-volunteer service by two years due to insufficient recruitment, according to the defence ministry.
The ministry, which originally aimed to phase out its decades-old military conscription policy by the end of 2014, has decided to push the deadline back to the end of 2016, citing unsatisfactory recruitment results, it said.
It now plans to launch an all-volunteer service from January 1, 2017, although men aged over 20 years old will still have to go through four months of military training under the new system.
The decision came after public anger over the death of a young corporal who was allegedly abused by his superiors dealt a blow to the ministry's plan for a professional military, already hit by low recruitment in the first half of the year.
The corporal's family believe the 24-year-old's death in July was brought on by excessive exercise forced upon him as punishment for taking a camera phone onto his army base and for making complaints against his superiors.
Currently, all Taiwanese men aged over 20 are required to do one year's military service.
The government hopes that, by 2017, volunteers will enlist for a longer period of military service, making for a better trained, more highly skilled military.
Military service was seen as a patriotic duty after the island's split from China at the end of a civil war in 1949.
But warming ties with Beijing have seen tensions ease in recent years and the idea of serving in a professional military seems to hold few attractions for young Taiwanese, according to recruitment figures.
In the six months to June, the military recruited just 1,847 people -- or 31 percent of its target of 5,887.
The ministry had planned to recruit 17,447 people before the end of February next year.
Taiwan's relatively large army of around 275,000 is a legacy of decades of tensions with China, which has regarded the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
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