Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 1 News List

KMT agrees to certain arms purchases

SAFETY FIRST The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus said it would cease to block the purchase of 12 Lockheed P-3C surveillance aircraft and 384 PAC-3 missiles

By Mo Yan-chih and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said yesterday it would vote to approve funding for the purchase of a US anti-missile system, having blocked the budget in the legislature for more than two years.

KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) said the KMT caucus agreed to pass the arms procurement budget during cross-party negotiations on Tuesday out of concern for the nation's defense capability.

Su said the caucus agreed to pass parts of the NT$6.3 billion (US$191 million) arms procurement proposal, including the purchase of 12 Lockheed P-3C surveillance aircraft and 384 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, but did not reach a consensus on the purchase of eight diesel submarines.

Su said the US had offered to sell the submarines for about NT$12 billion each, but the government had only budgeted approximately NT$2.2 billion for the purchase. He said the caucus would continue to debate the submarine purchase next year.

KMT caucus Secretary-General Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said the KMT had always supported reasonable arms procurement, but would continue to block unreasonable purchases.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator David Huang (黃偉哲), meanwhile, complained about the timing of the KMT's decision.

"It would be difficult to persuade me that the KMT's decision to pass the budget has nothing to do with the election," Huang said. "After all, they have boycotted this proposal since 2004 and threatened national security [as a result]. Now they suddenly decide to approve it."

The Ministry of National Defense welcomed the KMT's decision.

"[The procurement] will assist the military in maintaining our self-defense capability," Lieutenant General Chen Kuo-hsiang (陳國祥), director-general of the ministry's General Political Warfare Bureau told the National Defense Committee.

The arms package was originally approved by the US government in 2001 and was first submitted to the legislature by the Cabinet in 2004.

The purchase was initially proposed as part of a NT$610.8 billion special budget, but this was later trimmed to NT$6.3 billion by the legislature.

Complaining of the purchase's cost and possible cross-strait ramifications, the pan-blue camp have since used their majority in the legislature to stall the procurement process.

Meanwhile, the DPP criticized the KMT yesterday for habitually blocking bills and government budgets, thereby hampering the country's progress and economic development.

Hsieh Hsin-ni (謝欣霓), director of the DPP's Culture and Information Department, said the KMT had boycotted bills proposed by the government or DPP caucus 6,315 times since September 2000 and delayed the passage of the fiscal 2007 central government budget for 197 days.

They also froze government budgets from 2004 through this year amounting to NT$532 billion, she said.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling

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