Tue, May 02, 2006 - Page 1 News List

MND to increase exports of small arms

BULLET DIPLOMACY The ministry said that it would ramp up exports of Taiwanese arms to help cement relations with the governments of friendly countries and allies

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said it will export more military goods to the nation's allies and other countries in an effort to boost Taiwan's diplomatic clout.

"Some foreign countries are impressed with the excellent quality of Taiwan's military goods. So the MND has proposed establishing a company in charge of exporting small arms to our allies and friendly countries," Deputy Minister of National Defense Ko Cheng-heng (柯承亨) told the legislature's National Defense Committee meeting yesterday.

Ko said the proposed arms exports would be carried out solely on a government-to-government basis, to avoid having the weapons end up in private hands -- and that the military plans to sell only conventional military items.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) said that such military sales would enhance the country's diplomatic efforts and also be profitable, so he welcomed the MND's move.

However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said he was concerned that Taiwan would become notorious as an arms exporter if it sold weapons to politically unstable countries in the Middle East, Latin America or Africa.

In the past, the military has kept its weapons exports quiet.

Unconfirmed media reports said that Taiwan sold the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 10,000 domestically produced T-91 5.56mm assault rifles, in exchange for the UAE allowing President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to make an unofficial visit to the country last October.

The government denied the reports.

Media reports also said that Taiwanese small arms and military equipment are popular around the world because they are of high quality and inexpensive. Jordan has bought thousands of T-91s, and the MND said this was because the country had found that the T-91 was more powerful than the US-made M-16A2 assault rifle or the Russian-made AK-47 assault rifle.

A special characteristic of the rifles is that none of them identify the country where they were made, the reports added.

In addition, media reports also said that Taiwan was one of 22 countries from which the Pentagon buys military equipment.

The reports said a US delegation arrived in Taipei in last February to purchase ammunition, portable computers, satellite phones, infrared equipment, clothing, electronic devices and bullet-proof vests. The MND denied the reports.

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