Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Tang rejects invite to visit the US

KEEPING CLEAN Sources said the defense minister wanted to avoid a repeat of his last visit to the US, in 2001, when he was approached by a number of arms dealers

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) has turned down an invitation by the US to attend a meeting in the next few months to review arms deals between the two countries, defense sources said yesterday.

The meeting, to be held in the second half of the year, would have been Tang's second visit to the US since taking office.

Tang rejected the invitation mainly to avoid the US arms dealers who accosted him during his last visit to the US, the sources said.

In his last visit to the US in 2001, Tang was approached by a number of arms dealers who tried several ploys to promote their companies' products, according to the sources.

"Tang did not feel comfortable about the conditions. He did not want to have close contact with arms dealers. But because the meeting was held by a private organization, he could not choose who he met," said a defense source who has knowledge about the matter.

"He does not think it necessary for him to develop any links with arms dealers," the source said.

Tang has a "clean" reputation that has allowed him to avoid the scandals of some of his predecessors.

But another defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tang might be clean himself, but keeping away from all possible sources of trouble might be counter-productive.

"All arms deals involve certain kinds of irregularities. There is no way to avoid it. The best way to stay out of trouble is to have no arms deals at all," the official said.

"Even weapon systems bought from the US ... could have serious problems if checked carefully. A defense minister has no way to stop it from happening," he said.

Tang has been very careful in handling arms deals with the US, but he might turn out to make the same mistake as the navy did after the murder of Captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) nearly 10 years ago.

Since his murder, which has yet to be solved, the navy has been reluctant to make large weapons purchases.

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