Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 3 News List

MND tries to win media support

UNITED FRONT When selling a contested defense budget that runs into the hundreds of billions of NT dollars, it pays to treat media representatives to lunch

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Faced with an avalanche of criticism of the NT$610 billion (US$18 billion) defense budget from legislators and members of the public who think the money might be better spent, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) wined and dined the media yesterday in an attempt to win them over to the cause.

Defense minister Lee Jye (李傑) briefed nearly 100 presidents, managers, editors in chief, news directors and correspondents from domestic and foreign TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and wire services about the budget.

"I want to make sure that you have accurate information and a clear understanding of the procurement plan," Lee said. "This is something we have to do, I assure you."

Lee said that China's military procurement has been increasing in recent years and this has seriously endangered the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.

"According to the Chinese authorities' announcement, their annual military budget for this year is US$25.4 billion. But usually, the real figure can be twice or three times what they actually announced," Lee said.

The special budget is for three major weapons systems, 384 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles, part of an advanced surface-to-air guided missile air defense system, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel-powered submarines.

Lee told the assembled media figures that the submarine procurement was the toughest part of the entire plan.

"Our end goal is to build our own submarines," Lee said. "However, while we have the ability to build submarines right now, we do not have the ability to test and maintain them. That is the biggest problem," Lee said.

"Before that problem is solved, we still need to purchase our vessels from the US," he said.

According to the deal, the US will find a submarine manufacturer for Taiwan because US manufacturers no longer produce diesel submarines. However, Taiwan has to confirm the deal in advance.

"That is why we hope that this budget can be approved as soon as possible," the minister said.

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