Fri, Nov 26, 2004 - Page 2 News List

KMT caucus backs Lien's call to halve weapons budget

LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT The party's caucus whip said his lawmakers would push for approval of the money to buy arms if the total amount was slashed

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) legislative caucus yesterday backed Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) pledge of support for the government's arms procurement plan if the NT$610.8 billion (US$18.6 billion) budget is halved.

"As long as the government can reassess the arms procurement budget, the KMT will consider allowing the budget plan to pass the Procedure Committee after the legislative election," said KMT legislative caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福).

Huang said that the suggestion Lien made on Wednesday would be an efficient solution to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government's tough mission of trying to maintain national security while meeting the public's expectation of more resources for social welfare projects.

"In the past the DPP opposed the government's inclusion of arms procurement in its budget and even said that NT$280 billion was enough, so they have no excuse to reject Lien's goodwill," Huang said.

Wednesday night, during the KMT's anniversary celebrations, Lien said that if the arms budget was halved, the savings could be used to pay for pensions for the elderly for the next five years or other social welfare projects.

However, the People First Party (PFP) took a different stance, saying that the amount of the arms budget is not the issue, it is whether Taiwan can obtain the most effective weapons.

"The government hasn't even clearly explained whether anti-submarine aircraft, Patriot III missiles and diesel-electric submarines are what are needed most. The submarines cost too much -- there is room for reduction," said PFP legislative caucus whip Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄).

Liu stressed that the PFP has never opposed the government's inclusion of arms purchases in its budget. The issue is whether the arms procurement is reasonable and national defense is covered, that's why his party objects to the government's "fools gold" arms plan, he said.

DPP legislative caucus leader Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) called the pan-blue suggestions "pure election-time tactics."

"Arms procurement and social welfare are two completely different things. Their budgets are planned separately. If the KMT really intends to increase social welfare, the government and the opposition can negotiate. Pensions and other topics can be included in the scope of negotia-tion," Tsai said.

He said arms procurement is not a child's game. He said he hoped the KMT could respect the professional opinion of the Ministry of National Defense and speed up passage of the arms budget in the committee. If the opposition is worried about the cost and quality of the arms, the government and the opposition could form a control committee and supervise the budget, he said.

Deputy Presidential Office Secretary-General James Huang (黃志芳) urged the pan-blue alliance to rethink their opposition.

"The cost of every military item, and the need for future renovation and supplements have all been strictly evaluated by the defense ministry and the Cabinet for more than 10 years. How could hundreds of billions of dollars suddenly be slashed from the budget?" Huang said.

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