Tue, Jun 22, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Minister emphasizes AEGIS goal

DESTROYERS Lee Jye could not confirm a report that the US has agreed on a deal to sell an advanced radar system, but he stressed the procurement would be vital

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said that a key goal of Taiwan's military is to establish the US' AEGIS technology as a component of the nation's defense. He also said he was happy to hear reports that US authorities had agreed to sell the system to Taiwan in the "near future" -- though he couldn't confirm that the reports were true.

Lee was commenting on a Chinese-language news report over the weekend saying that US authorities had assured a group of Taiwanese legislators -- ?who are now conferring with US military officials at the Pentagon and at US military bases about military procurement -- that the US will sell the AEGIS defense system to Taiwan, including Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers that the nation has been trying to purchase for several years.

The news report did not specify when the arms deal would take place.

"I am happy to hear that, if the story is true. However, as of now, the ministry hasn't received any official notice regarding that procurement," Lee said.

"Acquiring the AEGIS system is a top goal regarding our mission to contribute to maintaining regional peace," he said.

In addition, Lee said that the ministry would not require any special budget allocations to purchase the AEGIS system.

"The ministry's regular budget should be sufficient," he said.

In 2001 Taiwan expressed its wish to purchase from the US four Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers, each equipped with an AEGIS defense system and each valued at US$1 billion. The destroyers are designed to detect and attack dozens of missiles, aircraft and ships. However, the administration of US President George W. Bush has only agreed to sell the nation four less-advanced Kidd-class destroyers. The first of the Kidd-class destroyers will be put into service in 2006.

The Kidd-class destroyers that Taiwan is buying -- which were originally built for the Shah of Iran -- employed the most technologically advanced radars and launchers for anti-aircraft missiles in the world, and are still among the most powerful anti-air and all-purpose destroyers in service.

The US navy took possession of the ships in 1981 when the government that came into power in Iran after the shah's fall canceled the order. For this reason, they are often referred to as the "Ayatollah Class."

In other remarks, Lee said that Taiwan has more than once informed the US that the nation would be happy to provide military personnel and engineers to contribute to US projects to develop next-generation fighters. So far, the US has made no response.

Lee also said he had met former American Institute in Taiwan chairwoman Therese Shaheen yesterday morning. However, Lee said that they had not discussed anything of crucial importance.

"We did not talk about military procurement at all. It was just a friendly visit by Ms. Shaheen, that's all," Lee said.

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