Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Defense minister threatens to quit over sub budget

ULTIMATUM If the legislature refuses to pass the US$12 billion budget for eight new submarines the defense minister will resign, he said yesterday

DPA , TAIPEI

Defense Minister Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday urged the Legislative Yuan to pass a NT$412 billion (US$12.5 billion) budget appropriation for eight diesel-electric submarines from the US, saying he would resign if the arms deal is vetoed.

"This is a chance that won't come again. I hope the legislature will pass it as China's military build-up is worrying. With existing troops and weapons, I cannot defend the safety of our people," Lee said while attending the opening of a military photo exhibition in Taipei.

"I have said I will resign if the budget is not passed. I am serious," the defense minister said.

Late last month, the Cabinet submitted to the legislature a NT$610.8 billion special arms-purchase budget.

It included NT$144.9 billion for six sets of PAC-III anti-missile systems, NT$412 billion for eight conventional submarines and NT$35 billion for 12 P-3C anti-submarine helicopters.

Some in the legislature have been trying to block the spending, saying the weapons -- especially the submarines -- are too expensive.

"The price quote from the US is only a rough quote because they have not decided what type of submarines to build for us. Once that is decided, they will give us a precise price quote. Then our legislature can debate it," Lee said.

The opposition has accused the government of using the deal to boost ties with Washington rather than meet the nation's defense needs.

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