Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Arms talks leave Wang unsatisfied

ARMS PROCUREMENT The legislative delegation that traveled to the US to discuss weapons purchases said that it was unhappy with the progress it made

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Taiwan's legislative delegation, led by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), was unhappy about the US' refusal to provide any firm information on the type and cost of US-designed submarines the Americans have agreed to allow Taiwan to purchase, said the delegation members on Wednesday.

Delegation members quote the US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz as having firmly nixed any suggestion that Taiwan's China Shipbuilding Corporation take part in the construction of the vessels.

US officials conceded, however, that China Shipbuilding could be involved in maintenance and logistics support for the submarines, according to Wang and others.

Letting China Shipbuilding build some of the subs would be a "waste of resources," Wolfowitz reportedly maintained.

The US will not help Taiwan to "build" the vessels, but will only "help them buy" them, delegates said.

NEW DIFFERENCES

New differences between Taiwan and the US over the question of Taiwan acquisition of diesel-powered submarines came into sharp focus this week during talks between delegation members and American officials, delegation members revealed in Washington on Wednesday.

The lawmakers were clearly unhappy with the responses they received from the Americans during three days of talks with Pentagon, Department of State and other US officials, the delegates said in a meeting with Taiwanese reporters at the end of the visit.

Wang and nearly two dozen other lawmakers and government defense and foreign officials spent three days in high-level talks with US officials on arms purchases, mainly those covered by the US$18 billion special budget the Cabinet has approved.

However, in a process outlined by the Americans, which is alien to Taiwan's usual practices, the US said that Taiwan should give performance specifications to all potential companies bidding for the contract to build the subs and conduct competitive bidding to see who could build the best and cheapest vessels.

Taiwan's arms budget

* Taiwan plans to spend about US$10 billion on defense this year, not including an additional US$18 billion "special budget" for purchasing weapons systems from the US.

* The special budget is earmarked for three major items: PAC-III Patriot anti-missile batteries, P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, and eight diesel-powered submarines.

* According to the defense magazine ''Jane's Defence Weekly,'' some analysts believe China will possess the military capability to successfully attack Taiwan as early as 2006.

* According to the US Department of Defense, China has more than 500 missiles targeted at Taiwan.

Source: Taipei Times


That would leave the cost of the eight vessels the government seeks to purchase -- estimated by Taiwanese experts at about US$12 billion -- up in the air.

How Taipei would arrange payment is also a matter of dispute. The legislators want Washington to provide detailed quotes for the price of the equipment and then use those figures to pass a special arms procurement budget.

On the other hand, the US wants Taiwan to pass the budget first, and then go out to bid for individual items.

The legislators complain that during this week's talks, the Americans provided only vague, two-page summaries of the costs, using which it is impossible to make policy decisions.

These, and other disagreements, left a bad feeling among the delegation.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁芳) questioned whether the Bush administration was sincere in seeking a settlement of cross-strait relations.

Lin wondered whether the US thinks it is in its interest that the confrontation between Taiwan and China "should continue, short of military confrontation."

He said that Wang conveyed a message from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to US officials during a Monday breakfast meeting at the American Institute for Taiwan seeking US help in facilitating direct links and the US revival of an offer by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) in his 2002 meeting with Bush to reduce the number of missiles facing Taiwan in exchange for a slowdown in US arms sales to Taipei.

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