Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday said that the nation's proposed NT$610.8 billion (US$19.3 billion) weapons procurement expenditure can be reduced to NT$480 billion if Taiwan does not purchase eight diesel submarines from the US.
"Many lawmakers disagree with our proposal to buy submarines from the US and insisted that we should build our own vessels. If we follow that position, we will be able to save up to NT$71.9 billion," Lee said.
"Also, we can save some of the ministry's annual budget for weapons procurement and use the money in other ways," he added.
Lee made his remarks while attending a luncheon with reporters yesterday. According to the defense minister, the ministry is planning to amend the arms procurement deal. There are proposed versions to the amended procurement plan -- one which would cost the government NT$590 billion and another which would cost NT$480 billion. The ministry will submit the amended procurement proposals to the legislature for approval in the near future.
"The NT$590 billion version reflects the difference in exchange rates, which used to be NT$35 for every US dollar, but is now about NT$31 for every US dollar. This alternative would also not involve removing any items from the [proposed] procurement plan," Lee said.
The biggest-ever weapons procurement plan in the nation's history would buy three items -- three Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile batteries, which is an advanced surface-to-air missile defense system, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel powered submarines.
The original procurement plan was killed in the legislature last month before the last session drew to a close. Lawmakers either said that the proposal was too expensive or that Taiwan should spend money on building its own submarines.
Lee also said that some legislators wanted to know whether the US will give Taiwan a guarantee regarding defense assistance if the government does invest the massive dollar amount on weapons.
"I would say that the US-Japan security alliance is a promise to Taiwan already since the two countries recently identified security in the Taiwan Strait as a `common strategic objective.' That means something to us," Lee said.