Thu, Jan 26, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Wang says pan-blue camp ready to meet on arms bill

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) announced yesterday in Washington that the pan-blue camp is willing to sit down with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the coming months to discuss the passage of the long-stalled arms procurement bill.

Wang said that the pan-blue camp may be willing to approve at least part of the package, which US President George W. Bush first offered to Taiwan in April 2001, but which has been blocked by opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers and their allies in the legislature.

Wang made the surprise announcement in remarks in Washington at a dinner with think tank members and former government officials at Taiwan's Twin Oaks mansion, at the end of his first day of a two-day visit.

He announced that both KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) have agreed to meet with the DPP during the next legislative session to talk about funding for the US arms package.

He said that a resolution could be achieved by March.

"As long as we can sit down and talk, I think there will be the opportunity to pass, not necessarily the whole package, but maybe some of [it]," Wang told the roughly 60 guests attending the dinner, hosted by Representative to Washington David Lee (李大維).

"I believe that the Legislative Yuan will move forward under our democratic mechanism and due process, so that we can move to a final decision and conclusion," Wang said.

Wang said that Soong promised that in the next legislative session, "he will work on this issue, and he will help to [ensure] that there will be negotiations between the government and opposition parties, and he will send his representative to participate in this negotiation process."

Wang said that six days ago Ma "told me personally that our party will also present our position paper on this arms procurement issue by the end of February."

"I personally hope that before March we can have a meeting with the ruling and the opposition parties through the party caucuses to talk about these issues," Wang said.

While skeptical that the legislature will be able to resolve the issue, Wang said nevertheless that "for us, it is very good to see that the Legislative Yuan will step out for the first time to discuss this issue."

Wang's announcement came after a day of talks in Washington with government officials and key congressmen, in which the arms sale issue eclipsed all other bilateral issues.

Wang said he spent two hours in talks with State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council officials in the morning. He first held a joint meeting with the State Department and council officials, and then headed to the Pentagon for meetings which he described as "very good."

The delegation also met with the two founding co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican George Allen, who is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The group also met with Senate Democratic Whip Richard Durbin. All three focused on defense issues, Wang said.

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