Thu, Jul 29, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Defense official to travel to the US to meet Wolfowitz

DISCUSSIONS With the US worried about tensions across the Taiwan Strait, a defense official may soon head overseas to meet the high-ranking US figure

AFP , TAIPEI

Taiwan will send a top defense official to the US to attend a defense industry meeting, a report said yesterday.

The US-Taiwan Business Council has invited Defense Minister Lee Jye (李傑) to participate in the bilateral meeting slated for Oct. 3-5, the third of its kind, a Chinese-language newspaper said.

But it quoted an unnamed military officer as saying "at this moment, Lee has not yet decided to attend or not because he may have to stay here to defend the special military budget while it is screened by the Legislative Yuan."

If that happens, Deputy Defense Minister Huo Sho-yeh (霍守業) would instead attend and meet his US counterpart, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, it said.

The nation's defense ministry declined to comment on the report.

There have been mounting objections to the controversial special budget of NT$610 billion (US$18.2 billion US) which is pending approval.

The budget is for the purchase of eight conventional submarines, modified Patriot anti-missile systems and anti-submarine aircraft over a 15-year period.

Some critics say the nation cannot afford the spending, while others say the new weaponry will not be delivered in time to help the nation fend off a possible attack from China in coming years.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) on Friday said the US must halt military exchanges and arms sales to Taiwan, given the "seriousness" of the cross-strait standoff.

A string of wargames have been staged separately by Taiwan and China over the past few weeks, prompting the US to call for restraint from the two sides, fearing unexpected clashes might lead to war.

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