Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Blue camp aims to halve sub budget

LOCAL ASSEMBLY The pan-blue caucuses said there was no reason to fork out so much money for constructing submarines if they had to be ordered from overseas

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The pan-blue legislative caucuses yesterday declared that the special budget for arms purchases should be cut down to at least NT$200 billion if submarines included in the package were not assembled locally.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, however, urged the legislature to pass the budget first and allow the government to negotiate with the US later.

Pointing to the cost of submarines purchased by other countries, People First Party Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said that if Taiwan abandoned plans to assemble the submarines locally and purchased all craft from other countries, then a reasonable price for one submarine was US$0.8 billion (NT$28 billion).

"The eight submarines we plan to buy would only amount to a total of NT$220 billion, but the Executive Yuan has prepared a budget of NT$412.1 billion for locally assembled submarines," Lin said.

"If we are to abandon the local-assembly plan, then we have to cut the budget down by about NT$200 billion," he said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Policy Committee Convener Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) agreed.

"We support the arms deal with the US, but we as legislators should review the budget plan carefully according to our defense needs," Tseng said. "We will not allow the government to prepare a bigger budget than is necessary and we will also demand faster delivery."

The pan-blue caucuses, meanwhile, said they still support a resolution passed in an earlier legislative sitting backing local construction of the vessels, which would allow the Chinese Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) to vie for the contract.

The DPP caucus responded to the pan-blue demands by pointing out that the Ministry of National Defense has already demanded that the US issue new quotes for the submarines, and that the ministry has insisted on reasonable prices.

The DPP caucus urged the legislature to pass the budget as soon as possible and allow the ministry to negotiate with the US.

"The caucuses should not now fight over the expense; instead, we should authorize the ministry to bargain with the US and get a quote that's close to those offered to other countries," DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

"Local assembly is not necessarily the best choice, but at the least we should allow the CSBC to provide maintenance for the submarines," Tsai said.

But Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that the budget was likely to be cut by at least NT$100 billion.

Meanwhile, as legislators from the different camps argued about the budget, Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday visited DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) and People First Party Legislator Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) to solicit their support.

Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Miao Yung-ching (苗永慶) also visited Lin yesterday with the same agenda.

The legislators said that Lee Jye and Miao indicated that there was definitely space for negotiation with the US on price.

A submarine expert from Germany who has been closely watching military developments in Taiwan said that the CSBC had the capacity to build submarines if it was given US$50 million to upgrade its equipment and transfer necessary technology from the US.

But Wang said yesterday that it might be difficult for Taiwan to build its own submarines due to the "unfeasibility" of this transfer.

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