The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday denied claims by a newspaper that it would seek to defer payment for some US arms purchases and delay certain procurements to save money to finance an all-volunteer military program.
The Chinese-language China Times yesterday said the ministry was seeking the delays as a means to fulfill a campaign pledge by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to create a professional military during his term.
Citing anonymous military officials, the China Times said the ministry had approached the US with the proposal and that Washington had said it understood the reason for the request and had accepted it.
The article quoted the officials as saying that delivery of UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters, AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters and PAC-III missile defense batteries would be delayed if the ministry decided to delay payment for those platforms.
The officials also said that two primary arms procurements requests — F-16C/D aircraft and diesel submarines — would be also delayed, the paper said. Taiwan has requested those two items for years, with little movement on Washington’s part.
The article also said that a plan unveiled last month to develop a high-tech missile corvette could also be delayed as a result.
In addition to the China Times article, a posting on the Military News Agency Web site on Saturday read: “The ministry proposes to prolong the periods for some arms procurement proposals and their payments to meet personnel costs for the implementation of a professional military system.”
Responding to the claims, Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) told a press conference that the country had not changed its position on the procurement of advanced arms systems from the US and that the military had no plan to delay payment on arms acquisitions from the US.
“The report is not true and is completely unfounded,” Yang said.
Since Ma took office in 2008, he has on various occasions expressed the country’s determination to procure F-16C/D aircraft and diesel submarines from the US, Yang said.
On several occasions, Ma met US members of US Congress or other US guests and reiterated the importance of the two items to Taiwan’s defense, he said.
Yang said that in more than 30 years, the country had never delayed payments for US arms sales.
The US is very clear about this part, he said.
Asked to comment on the Military News Agency report, Yang said the words in the posting were “inappropriate,” without elaborating.
On the establishment of the all-volunteer military system, Yang said it was one of the government’s key policies and that the Executive Yuan had set up a special task force to offer guidance on its implementation.
“The all-volunteer recruitment system will be carried out in a gradual manner by pooling the resources of all government departments,” Yang said, adding that well-designed strategies and steps would be adopted to implement the ambitious project.
Regarding the slow progress of the F-16C/D procurement plan, Yang said Taiwan had explained in detail to US officials its need to acquire a new generation of fighters to update its fleet of warplanes to safeguard its airspace, deter invasion and maintain regional stability and peace.
“We will step up our lobbying efforts and continue pushing the US authorities to conclude their assessment and come up with a positive decision soon,” Yang said.