Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 1 News List

MND denies arms cancelation

STRAINED TIES?Both Lee Jye and Wang Jin-pyng said there was no substance to a report in Chinese-language newspaper that the huge deal would be scrapped

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A local media report which said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) would cancel the huge arms procurement package from the US to show the government's unhappiness with the US transit arrangements for Chen was denied yesterday by Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑).

The report, which quoted an anonymous source identified only as a pan-blue heavyweight, was also denied by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) after he met with Lee yesterday.

Lee visited Wang to ask him to push to get the long-stalled arms budget for US weapons systems onto the legislative agenda.

The Chinese-language newspaper China Times reported yesterday that Chen was planning to cancel the arms budget and use the money for social welfare programs, but Wang said that he doubted the authenticity of the paper's source.

"The information could be faked by someone. It's impossible for the president to overrule the decision to buy the weapons from the US," he said.

"It's also unlikely that the president would withdraw the arms procurement budget pending in the legislature. Since the bill was sent to the legislature for review, the legislature has to deal with it in accordance with stated procedures," he said.

There have been rumors recently that Lee might tender his resignation next month because of the difficulties in getting the arms bill through the legislature.

Wang said that Lee has been anxious about the bill and its review process, but he said he didn't raise the resignation issue with Lee.

"His resignation would be a loss to the country," Wang said.

Lee told Wang that the government would soon send a revised arms budget bill -- to be financed by Ministry of Defense's regular annual budget -- to the legislature to replace the long-delayed version, which was to be funded by a special budget.

"[The possibility of Lee resigning] shouldn't be a problem at this point in time because it's likely that the bill will be passed by the end of the legislative session," Wang said.

Wang said that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus would soon review its position on the bill, and it would then discuss the issue with the other opposition caucuses.

Meanwhile, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said the idea of using the arms purchase to make a point with the US was "too imaginative."

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs never gave such advice to the president," Kau said in a meeting of the legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee.

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