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Taiwan names new head of national security in cabinet reshuffle

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 27/01/2023 Lawrence Chung
  • Tsai Ming-yen takes over the intelligence reins after scandal-hit predecessor resigns 'to have a good rest'
  • The appointment is part of a government reorganisation in response to the ruling party's poor results in November's local elections

Taiwan has appointed a new intelligence chief, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle prompted by the ruling party's poor local election results and against the backdrop of a rising military threat from Beijing.

Deputy foreign minister Tsai Ming-yen replaces Chen Ming-tong as head of the National Security Bureau, the island's Presidential Office announced on Thursday.

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"Director-general Chen Ming-tong has tendered his resignation to the president, expressing his desire to have a good rest," presidential spokesman Xavier Chang said.

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Chen was implicated in a high-profile plagiarism scandal involving his former student, ex-Hsinchu mayor Lin Chih-chien, just months before local government elections in November. The Democratic Progressive Party suffered its worst setback in the polls, with much of the blame attributed to the affair.

"The president hopes [new] director general Tsai can use his expertise in regional security, foreign affairs and international strategy to help the national security team make accurate interpretation and decision making for the cross-strait and regional situations," Chang said.

Taiwan has faced increasing military threats from Beijing, which regards it as part of its territory that must be brought under mainland control, by force if necessary.

In August, the PLA staged unprecedented live-fire drills around the island in retaliation for a visit to Taipei by then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi - a trip seen by Beijing as a violation of its sovereignty.

Most countries, including the US, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. Washington, however, opposes any attempt to take the island by force.

Chang said the president also hoped Tsai would continue to promote the "specialised tasks of the intelligence system and continue to strengthen the governance and innovation of intelligence agencies in the era of democratisation."

Tsai, who has a doctorate in war studies from King's College London, was Taiwan's de facto ambassador to the European Union before becoming deputy foreign minister in August 2022.

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Once an adviser to the Taiwanese defence ministry and cross-strait policymaking Mainland Affairs Council, Tsai also served as deputy secretary general of the National Security Council in 2017.

Tsai's appointment follows the naming on Wednesday of former vice-president Chen Chien-jen as the new head of Cabinet. He replaces Su Tseng-chang, who is expected to lead his team until the changeover on Monday.

At a news conference to formally announce Chen's appointment on Friday, President Tsai Ing-wen praised Su for his hard work in the past four years and asked his successor to take on new challenges during the post-Covid-19 era.

Taiwan's premier resigns, cabinet reshuffle expected soon

Su quit last week, along with his cabinet, ahead of a widely anticipated government reshuffle following the November election results.

It is not immediately known if there will be changes to the heads of the foreign, defence and mainland affairs ministries.

However, Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency has reported that foreign minister Joseph Wu, defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng and Chiu Tai-san, head of the Mainland Affairs Council, will remain in their posts.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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