Tue, Jun 29, 2004 - Page 1 News List

No US pressure on arms budget: Chen

STRATEGY The president said the special budget was the result of a long-term evaluation to reflect the nation's need to deter the threat of invasion by China

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian shakes hands with US Representative Scott McInnis at the Presidential Office yesterday. Chen discussed plans to buy an US$18 billion arms package, saying the deal would help keep peace and foster dialogue with China.

PHOTO: CNA

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday denied that the government's proposed arms procurement deal had anything to do with pressure from the US government.

He said the special arms budget pragmatically reflects the nation's need to deter the threat of invasion by China, although the Legislative Yuan has insisted that the price tag should be cut significantly.

Chen made the remarks at a reception at the Presidential Office to welcome US Representative Scott McInnis to Taiwan yesterday.

"The arms procurement budget, which includes the submarines, is part of a plan resulting from a long-term, cautious evaluation process by the Ministry of National Defense and other government depart-ments," Chen said.

"We made the request and we appreciate that it received the approval of US President George W. Bush. The US reacted to a request from our government. The deal is not the result of pressure from the US government," he said.

He said that the Ministry of National Defense had proposed a priority list for weapons procurement in response to a request from the Bush administration in April 2001.

The list clearly indicated that the purchase of diesel-powered submarines, PAC-III Patriot anti-missile batteries and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft was to meet the military's "anti-missile, anti-submarine" stra-tegy, Chen said.

"To enhance our self-defense capability, which is our realistic need, as well as to seek permanent peace in the Taiwan Strait, to avoid a military imbalance on either side, to secure the hard-won fruits of Taiwan's democracy and to show goodwill toward the resumption of cross-strait dialogue, I must state seriously here that it [the arms purchase] was absolutely not an outcome stressed by the US government," he said.

Chen said that his promise of constitutional re-engineering had not been a result of US pressure either.

He ended his speech by saying that the arms-procurement plan was aimed at effectively preventing an invasion by China, while Taiwan would by no means provoke the Beijing administration.

"We will not bring Taiwan into the arena of war, despite the belligerence of the Chinese Communists, who still refuse to renounce their use of force against Taiwan. Although we have no intention of provoking China, we have to be cautiously alert, because China's irrational nature might ultimately lead to a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and threaten the stability and security of the Asia-Pacific region," Chen said.

The Cabinet's approval on June 2 of the special budget of NT$610.8 billion (US$18.1 billion) to purchase advanced weaponry caused controversy almost immediately.

The opposition alliance and some social groups said the country could not afford spending that much on weapons systems, arguing that the arms deals might be no more than an exchange between the Chen and Bush administrations based on private interests.

Meanwhile, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who led a legislative delegation to visit the US to gain a better understanding of the arms deal, said on his return yesterday morning that the main achievement of the trip had been to "launch a new phase of negotiations about cutting the price of the arms purchase."

"Based on consensus that the submarines are too expensive, the delegation reached two resolu-tions," Wang said at a press conference yesterday morning.

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