Sat, Jul 31, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Defence minister reiterates threat to resign over budget

CNA , TAIPEI

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) reiterated yesterday in Taichung, central Taiwan, that he will quit his job if the Legislative Yuan turns down his ministry's request for NT$610.8 billion (US$18.23 billion) over 15 years to buy a package of arms from the US.

Canvassing support from Legislator Lu Hsiou-yan (盧秀燕) of the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party, the defense minister said the three major parts of the arms package, namely a missile-defense system, anti-submarine aircraft and diesel-electric submarines, are badly needed by the country to secure its safety.

Lee claimed that "all the weapon systems listed in the package are top weaponry systems currently used by the US armed forces" and will greatly boost Taiwan's military power. Washington has been reluctant to sell them to Taiwan in the past out of concern that it might trigger an arms race in the region, but was forced to offer them in light of the advancement in Beijing's attack capability.

He denied speculation that his predecessor, Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明), stepped down because of his lukewarm reaction to the deal, claiming that the purchase plan was worked out during Tang's term as defense chief.

He said President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) never tried to influence him on the purchases but that it was the belief of the armed forces that Taiwan could not afford to lose the opportunity to acquire these weapons.

The opposition parties in the legislature are reserved about the arms purchase, claiming that it will plunge the debt-laden government deeper into the red.

Meanwhile, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday called on domestic small- and medium-sized enterprise owners to throw their support behind a special budget approved by the Executive Yuan to purchase weaponry from the United States.

Yu made the appeal while addressing an annual general assembly of Taiwan's National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

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