Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan urged to buy US weapons

ARMS BUDGET According to the delegation visiting Washington, US officials said that if Taiwan does not treat its national defense seriously, then the US won't either

By Charles Snyder and Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTERS IN WASHINGTON AND TAIPEI

US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has expressed serious concern about Taiwan's ability to protect itself against possible attacks by China, and urged Taiwan to strengthen its defenses with the proposed arms purchase, according to a Taiwanese legislator visiting Washington.

According to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), Wolfowitz said that if Taiwan does not treat its national defense seriously, then the Americans won't either.

Wolfowitz said that if Taiwan did not take action as soon as possible to strengthen its defenses, China would be encouraged to invest more on military equipment, Lee told the Taipei Times after he and a multi-party legislative delegation headed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) spent a day in Washington discussing Taiwan's arms procurement budget with top defense and State Department officials.

The 15-member delegation was briefed by 25 US military and civilian officials during a breakfast meeting on the first day of a three-day visit on Monday morning, and then went off to separate meetings at the Pentagon and the State Department.

Although Wang is from the pan-blue camp, he still showed support for the purchase.

"The balance of military power on the two sides [of the Taiwan Strait] is necessary to the area's peace, stability and prosperity," Wang said.

The delegation was to attend a congressional meeting yesterday to discuss the prospects for a measure before the US Congress to enhance military relations between the US and Taiwan through greater joint activities and mutual visits by top officials who are currently barred from such visits by long-term US policy.

That measure, proposed by Senator Sam Brownback, is expected to come up for a vote this week. The House recently approved a parallel bill.

On Monday, American officials were "vague" about the US' commitment to help Taiwan fend off an attack from China, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sun Kuo-hua (孫國華) told the Taipei Times.

After the US officials insisted that it would be in Taiwan's best interests to buy the weapons stipulated in the special budget package -- diesel submarines, P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot anti-missile systems -- the legislators received somewhat unsatisfactory answers to their questions, Sun said.

When asked if the US would come to Taiwan's defense against China if it were to buy all the weapons, the US side was "vague," Sun said, "because they couldn't say they wouldn't come to our defense, because if they said that, Beijing would say, `Okay, let's attack.'"

"I think the United States is keeping that deliberately vague," he said.

Washington has long been pressuring Taiwan to buy the robust weapons package US President George W. Bush promised in April 2001.

Meanwhile, Pentagon officials were still unable to provide details on the design and cost of the eight diesel submarines included in the package, Sun said.

"We didn't even see a configuration for the submarines ... there's a lot of uncertainties in the cost estimates," he said. "The United States Navy doesn't know."

Sun indicated that Washington was still looking toward various European countries to provide the designs.

But the US officials "gave no indication where the subs will come from" and could not provide a price estimate, Sun said.

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