Sat, Sep 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Heed US warning, defense minister says

CNA , TAIPEI

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) said yesterday that Taiwan should take heed of a US Pentagon official's stern criticism of the limited growth in the nation's national defense budget.

Lee was referring to remarks made by Edward Ross, principal director of Security Cooperation Operations under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency of the US Department of Defense, at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference 2005 held in San Diego, California on Sept. 19 and Sept. 20.

Ross also said that if Taiwan is not willing to defend itself, the US cannot assist in defending Taiwan.

Noting that Taiwan should pay attention to such a stern warning, Lee said that "if friends point out our faults, we must engage in self-reflection, and if they are wrong, then we'll react, " adding that the US has always been forthcoming.

On whether he will express Taiwan's views to the US, Lee said the Ministry of National Defense is preparing for a response.

Ross took part in the meeting on behalf of Richard Lawless, US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, who was unable to attend the conference because he was preoccupied with the six-party talks on North Korea.

Ross lauded Lee and his staff for meeting with legislators and communicating with them more than 170 times to attempt to facilitate passage of the long-stalled arms procurement bill. The procurement package includes three big-ticket items -- eight diesel-electric submarines, a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and three Patriot anti-missile batteries.

Meanwhile, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday that he will not speculate on when the arms procurement package will be put on the legislative agenda for review.

The opposition lawmakers, who have a slight majority in the Legislative Yuan, have blocked the bill's passage for more than a year because they say that the price is too high and that the procurement should be funded through the regular defense budget rather than a special budget.

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