Thu, Dec 30, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Confusion over defense minister's `offer' to quit

WHO KNOWS?A vice defense minister, the Cabinet spokesman and the Presidential Office all claimed that no offer to resign over obstructed legislation was made

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of National Defense Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) yesterday declined to comment on a report that Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) offered to resign last week over the delay in the passage of a NT$610.8 billion (US$18.23 billion) arms procurement plan.

"I am not clear about this matter. The minister has not spoken to me about whether he had asked to resign," Tsai said.

Tsai was responding to a question from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsiu-yen (盧秀燕) at the Legislative Yuan's National Defense Committee on the reported offer to resign.

The Cabinet yesterday afternoon released a press statement dismissing the report. The Presidential Office also said Lee had not tendered his resignation.

Tsai yesterday said he had no knowledge of the matter and was not in a position to make any comment.

Tsai also said that he regretted the fact that the legislature had shelved the arms procurement plan, and he admitted that the ministry should be held responsible for failing to win legislative support.

Lee had previously said he would step down if the arms procurement plan failed to obtain legislative approval.

Included on the shopping list are six Patriot-III anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-electric submarines and a squadron of 12 anti-submarine aircraft from the US.

The Executive Yuan intends to pay for the weapons over a 15-year period starting next year.

Regarding another report that nearly 100 military generals will retire or be transferred to other positions on Saturday, Tsai said that the ministry adjusts the line-up of military officers every year.

But he said the report also contained "false information."

Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that he knew nothing about Lee's supposed offer to resign.

"We absolutely recognize Minister Lee's efforts in pushing military reform and lobbying for the military procurement budget," Chen said. "Until the time when the premier leads the resignation of the Cabinet after the Legislative Yuan ends its last session in late January, every Cabinet official will continue to stand at their posts."

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling

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