Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Our nation's been picked clean by arms dealers

By Trong Chai 蔡同榮

Much information has been transmitted back to Taiwan in the course of the visit to the US by members of the legislature's National Defense Committee. Unfortunately, we have not heard of any privileges being won for Taiwan. On the contrary, we have seen the US propose to help Taiwan find loans to meet the costs of procuring arms.

The history of Taiwan's arms purchases from the US can be regarded as a drama in three acts. Act one corresponds to what is known as the period of "military aid." Having no worries about defense costs helped lay the foundation for Taiwan's economic miracle during this period.

The period after the US and Taiwan broke off relations and before the end of the Cold War amounted to the second act. In this period, Taiwan's economic strength made it one of the "Asian Tigers."

Under the constraints of the Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan began to shoulder the burden of nearly 20 years of enormous military expenditures paid to the US.

What Taiwan obtained in return was obsolete, second-hand US military equipment. Despite having such flimsy armaments, Taiwan was able to peacefully enjoy a 20-year period of stability thanks to US backing.

As the saying goes, however, "a family's wealth won't last more than three generations, and a nation's wealth won't last more than 30 years."

In recent years, Taiwan's competitiveness has steadily declined. With the nation showing hesitation over the protection fees that it used to pay with alacrity, US-Taiwan relations concerning arms sales require adjustment.

US-Taiwan relations on the matter of arms sales seem to have entered into a third act, having progressed from military aid to depletion of the nation's defense budget as we did our utmost to shoulder the defense burden, and finally to today's reports of discussions about borrowing money to buy arms.

Could this be the intent of the arms merchants? Perhaps Taiwan has no choice but to respond by raising more money for arms expenses of nearly NT$400 billion.

But if arms purchases have gotten to the point where they necessitate borrowing, that is truly cause for sorrow.

We should mourn the fact that just to buy arms the government would have to borrow money, mourn the fact that Taiwan appears not to have another path that would allow us to escape investment in an escalating arms race and mourn the fact that this nation has been picked so clean.

Trong Chai is a DPP legislator.

Translated by Ethan Harkness

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