Wed, Aug 30, 2006 - Page 1 News List

MND confirms plan to buy F-16s

MILITARY EXPENDITURE Vice Admiral Kao Kuang-hsi told reporters that the money to purchase the fighter jets would be included in next year's military budget book

By Rich Chang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday that it has proposed a budget for procuring 66 F-16C/D fighter jets from the US.

Vice Minister of National Defense Kao Kuang-hsi (高廣圻), a vice admiral, told a press conference yesterday that part of the budget to purchase the fighters would be included in next year's military budget book which would be sent to the legislature at the end of this month for review.

The ministry's confirmation of the F-16C/D budget is believed to show its determination to push through its arms budget requests and to respond to a report in a US magazine that said Washington has decided not to sell the fighters to Taiwan for the time being.

ANNUAL REPORT

The ministry also released its annual national defense report at yesterday's press conference.

The report highlights a more aggressive presence of Chinese fighters patrolling and approaching the centerline of the Taiwan Strait.

The report said while Chinese fighters patrolling the Strait made a total of 1,200 sorties in 2000, there were a total of 1,500 sorties in 2001 and a historical high of 1,700 sorties last year.

Chinese Su-27 fighter jets equipped with AA-12 air-to-air missiles -- which have a range of 80km -- made frequent flights in the Strait last month, threatening national security, the report said.

From April to September of last year the Japanese air force intercepted more than 50 Chinese fighters attempting to intrude into Japan's air space, the report said.

In the past three years, Chinese research vessels had intruded into Taiwan's waters more than 20 times, the report said, adding that in 2003, Japan's territorial waters were entered by Chinese research vessels more than 30 times.

The research vessels are believed to be mapping the undersea geography of Taiwan and Japan's territorial waters for China's submarine force, the report said.

SPECIAL MISSILE FORCE

This year's report indicated that the military is establishing a "special missile force," the first time mention of such a force has been made in the annual reports.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), however, refused to comment when asked at the press conference whether the "special missile force" referred to strategic missiles.

"I do not want to highlight the matter," Lee said.

"Every time the development of missiles is mentioned by the media, the military comes under pressure internationally. I do not like the pressure," he said.

The military is believed to be developing 1,000km-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and 600km-range cruise missiles.

The report said China currently has 784 ballistic missiles targeted at Taiwan, and is adding missiles at an annual rate of 75 to 100.

The report said China's ballistic missiles are the biggest threat to national security.

TELEGRAM

Meanwhile, the text of a telegram passed on to the ministry from the US said that the Legislative Yuan was to blame for the long-delayed special arms procurement bill, a high-ranking official said yesterday.

Lee showed the message to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday when he met with Wang to seek support for next year's defense budget.

An official speaking on condition of anonymity said that the US made very strongly worded comments on the delay of the arms procurement bill, which it described as difficult to understand.

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