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Taiwan Seeks to Boost Ties Through Veterans Groups

Taiwan plans to boost relations with friendly countries through organized activities between military veterans groups, including arranging for a “friendship flotilla” to visit Australia next year, Veteran Affairs Council (VAC) officials said yesterday.

The council has started talks with the Australian Office in Taipei and Australian veterans organizations about the possibility of more friendly visits and mutual exchanges between the two sides, VAC Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) told the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

The former minister of national defense was responding to legislators’ questions about the council’s latest report and its progress in implementing veterans affairs programs.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said that Taiwan’s military veterans have taken on greater roles in the past few years, citing Feng last year appointing two VAC officials to an office in Washington to build ties with US veterans.

Then-Australian representative to Taiwan Jenny Bloomfield in April last year said that her country was welcoming of greater involvement and exchanges between veterans groups in Taiwan and Australia, Wang said.

Feng said that VAC has been in contact with its Australian counterpart to coordinate on that effort, and is planning for the navy’s “friendship flotilla” to visit the country.

Under the plan, the flotilla — which visits the nation’s diplomatic allies and friends — would dock at an Australian port for three days to meet with Taiwanese living in Australia, while showcasing the nation’s navy, he said.

The council has no plans to station VAC officials in Australia, but would seek to boost relations there through visits and exchange programs, he added.

The VAC’s budget for next year includes NT$11.276 million (US$351,037) for communications with veterans living in Taiwan and abroad, which is about NT$5 million more than this year’s NT$6.725 million.

Feng told legislators that the increase was aimed at implementing new international programs, adding that Japan twice last year invited VAC officials for exchanges, but the council had no budget for it.

VAC also seeks to expand relations with veterans groups in Germany, South Korea and the UK, he said.

Source: Taipei Times