Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US commander stays up worrying about the Strait

ANXIETY Admiral Thomas Fargo told a Taiwanese delegation visiting Hawaii that a miscalculation by either Beijing or Taipei could cause war to break out

CNA , HAWAII

US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Thomas Fargo said on Friday that he is concerned about the possibility of war breaking out in the Taiwan Strait due to a miscalculation by the governments on either side, according to People First Party (PFP) Legislator Hsu Yuan-kuo (吳淵國).

Fargo made the remark at a meeting with a delegation headed by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) at the US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.

It was the first time the US army allowed Taiwanese without a military background to visit the US Pacific Command headquarters and military bases in Hawaii.

Hsu quoted Fargo as having told the delegation that three issues in the Pacific region have been keeping him awake at night -- the slow progress in removing nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula; the possibility of war in the Taiwan Strait, which is complicated by China's accelerated military modernization as a result of its rapid economic growth; and terrorist activities in Southeast Asia.

Hsu said the US Pacific Command sent several senior officers, including a lieutenant general, a major general and three brigadier generals, to brief them on the command's mission and the general regional security situation, as well as the functions of weapons that Taiwan is planning to buy from the US.

In the afternoon, the legislative delegation visited Pearl Harbor. Hsu said he and his colleagues boarded an Arleigh-Burke-class guided missile destroyer equipped with the advanced AEGIS radar system.

Vice Minister of National Defense Lei Kuang-shu (雷光墅), who is accompanying the lawmakers on their tour of the US, explained the differences between the Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer and the Kidd-class destroyer.

The US has agreed to sell four Kidd-class destroyers to Taiwan, and the delivery is scheduled to begin next year.

Hsu quoted US officers as having hinted that if Taiwan intends to buy the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the delivery could not begin until after 2010 or 2011.

The 13-member delegation arrived in Hawaii on Thursday on the first leg of a US tour aimed at discussing Taiwan's new arms procurement projects.

The delegation, composed of 13 lawmakers from across the political spectrum, visited a US Marine base at Kaneohe to take a closer look at the P-3C anti-submarine aircraft, one of the items Taiwan plans to purchase.

The Executive Yuan earlier this month approved a special military budget allocation of NT$610.8 billion (US$18.23 billion) for the purchase of eight submarines, a modified version of the Patriot PAC-III anti-missile system and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft over a 15-year period starting in 2005. The US offered to sell the military hardware to Taiwan in 2001 as part of its most comprehensive arms package to the nation since 1992. The special budget bill is now pending review and approval by the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan.

After the Hawaii visit, the legislative delegation will travel to Washington, via San Francisco. In the company of Chen Chien-jen (程建人), outgoing head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, the delegation will visit US administrative departments tomorrow and exchange views with senior officials on Taiwan's defense needs.

On Tuesday, the delegation will be briefed on special functions of the weaponry systems that the US intends to sell to Taiwan. The mission will also meet with US congressmen before leaving for Texas Thursday to visit a US Patriot PAC-III missile base.

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