Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet seeks NT$610.8bn to purchase arms from US

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AP

The Cabinet yesterday approved a special budget of NT$610.8 billion (US$18.25 billion) for procuring arms from the US.

The draft bill must still be reviewed and approved by the legislature.

The money is to be spent over the next 15 years. While NT$412 billion would be marked for eight diesel-electric submarines, NT$145 billion would be allocated for six Patriot anti-missile systems and NT$53 billion for 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.

While the Cabinet plans to issue bonds to raise NT$420 billion, NT$100 billion would come from selling public lands owned by the Ministry of Defense and NT$94 billion from selling shares of state-owned enterprises.

Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said yesterday at a press conference after the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting that a special budget allocation was made because the Cabinet does not want arms purchases to be crowded out in annual budgets.

Chen said it is important to provide the armed forces with more advanced equipment, adding that China has made double-digit increases in its military budget every year since 1995 while Taiwan has been cutting military spending.

The nation's military expenditures accounted for 24.3 percent of the total budget in 1994. They accounted for only 16.5 percent last year.

``The Chinese Communists have boosted their military spending in recent years, and the Cabinet is very worried about it,'' Chen said.

US President George W. Bush made the offer to sell Taiwan the hardware three years ago.

The Cabinet has insisted that Taiwanese companies be involved in building the submarines, though the US has said that doing so would drive up the cost substantially.

Under the Cabinet's plan, state-run China Shipbuilding would send technicians overseas to observe construction of the first two submarines and learn about the design, production and logistics involved in building the vessels.

The Cabinet hopes the company would then be able to build one-third of the hardware for the third and fourth subs. For the fifth and sixth subs, the Cabinet hopes the company can build two-thirds of the hardware and then build all of the remaining two.

Lawmakers have questioned if the Patriot missiles could effectively counter China's ballistic or cruise missiles, and have complained about the high costs of other weapons.

Meanwhile, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) will lead a delegation of caucus whips and legislators from the National Defense Committee to visit the US this month to examine the military hardware.

The delegation will meet with officials in the Department of Defense and the State Department, and will travel to Washington, DC, Texas and Hawaii.

additional reporting by Debby Wu

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