Mon, Jun 28, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Delegation told US to rethink arms deal, Wang says

WEAPONS SYSTEMS The legislative speaker said it was made clear to US officials that they should re-evaluate the deal and reduce the price

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislative delegation which visited Washington last week told US officials to re-evaluate the proposed arms procurement deal and held firm on Taiwan's best interests, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said in San Francisco on Saturday.

He also stressed that a change in the leadership of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was not likely in the near future.

Wang and the other members of the delegation visited San Francisco two days ago before heading back to Taiwan.

The legislative speaker expressed his satisfaction with the visit, and said that the group had fully expressed Taiwan's strong determination to cooperate with the US on national security and self-defense.

"We aimed to communicate thoroughly with the US about the deal. We have made it very clear that we would like the US to re-evaluate the deal, reduce the price and shorten the period for delivery," Wang said.

Wang said that he told US officials that the deal would need to be reviewed in the legislature, and that the legislature has the right to make a decision about the arms the country really needs, instead of buying everything the US suggests.

The US has responded kindly to these suggestions, Wang said.

The Executive Yuan has prepared a special budget of NT$610 billion to purchase weapons systems from the US, but the price has been generally considered to be excessive. Three major items have been earmarked for purchase: PAC-III Patriot anti-missile batteries, P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel-powered submarines.

Wang led a group of legislators on a 10-day trip to the US on June 17 to examine the pros and cons of the suggested weapons systems. The group was allowed to examine the weapons, including the P-3C aircraft and PAC-III Patriot anti-missile batteries.

The group also met US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to discuss the arms deal, as well as the cross-strait situation.

While the major focus of Wang's trip was the arms deal, the media yesterday questioned Wang, who is also a vice chairman of the KMT, about the possibility that he might compete to become the party's next chairman.

Wang said he had no intention to compete for the chairmanship at present. He also denied that he and Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is also a KMT vice chairman, were actually running the party's affairs.

"The recount of the presidential election ballots is still in process. Until the recount and the election fraud lawsuit have been completed, we should fortify and support the current leadership. Helping Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) to conduct the legislative election campaign should be the top issue on our agenda," Wang said.

"As to what will happen in the future, I don't exclude the possibility of taking over the chairmanship, but I won't strive for the chairmanship on my own initiative. Whatever will be, will be," Wang said.

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