Tue, Nov 07, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Part of arms procurement deal proceeds

By Mac William Bishop and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The legislature yesterday approved funding for items included in a controversial US arms procurement deal when reviewing the confidential portion of the military's annual budget, sources said.

The approval of the funding, in a joint meeting of the National Defense and Budgets and Final Accounts committees, substantially increases the likelihood that at least a portion of a long-stalled arms deal will move forward this year, mollifying vocal US criticism of Taiwan's defense establishment.

The committee allowed a total of NT$9.8 billion (US$297.4 million) in funds for three major weapons systems to proceed to what could be the final reading of the Cabinet's proposed budget for next year, a legislative aide told the Taipei Times on condition of anonymity.

The confidential budget included NT$6.1 billion toward the purchase of 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, all of which was approved by the committee, the aide said.

Although the Ministry of National Defense (MND) requested NT$4.5 billion for a study into the feasibility of submarines -- the precursor toward actually designing and building the vessels -- lawmakers slashed the request to NT$200 million, the source said.

Meanwhile, the legislative aide said that NT$3.5 billion in funds to upgrade Taiwan's existing Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) air defense batteries were also approved.

However, the defence committee slashed funds allocated for the purchase of PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, which the opposition parties contend is an "illegal" request because of a failed 2004 referendum related to missile defense.

The committee also "froze" NT$13 billion in funds the military requested for the purchase of 66 F-16C/D fighters. Lawmakers said they would only approve the funding if the MND could submit documentation that the US had formally approved the request within five months, the aide said.

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