Wed, Dec 15, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blues shoot down weapons budget -- again

SECURITY The vice minister of defense said yesterday that it would be meaningless and impossible to amend the arms package for reconsideration by the legislature

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, center, looks on as the NT$610.8 billion arms procurement budget is rejected by pan-blue legislators. The bill will now be returned for consideration by the full session of the legislature.

PHOTO: CHEN TSEH-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The military yesterday continued its promotion of the NT$610 billion (US$18.8 billion) arms procurement budget in the hope that lawmakers would transfer the proposal to a military committee for review and approval. But lawmakers disappointed them by declining the proposal again.

The proposal was transferred to the regular legislative meeting again in the first action on the bill since Saturday's legislative election drama.

The pan-blue camp yesterday afternoon again took advantage of its legislative majority to veto the budget.

"I am still hoping that the public will support us, support the budget and pass it as soon as possible. It is a pure need that concerns national security and is based on our professional evaluation. Please do not mix it up with politics," Vice Minister of National Defense Lieutenant General Hu Chen-pu (胡鎮埔) said.

Decreasing Reliance

Hu said that the proposed arms purchase, which includes the procurement of 384 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel submarines, was necessary to strengthen the country's self-defense capabilities and decrease reliance on the US government's help in case of a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

"Heaven helps those who help themselves," Hu said.

"The US government pays attention to peace in the Strait, but remember, Americans are not res-ponsible for fighting for Taiwan," he said.

"If there is a war, it will not be their war," he said.

Hu said that if legislators are not satisfied with the proposed procurement amount, negotiating within a range of NT$100 billion was possible.

"But we do need to buy these weapons for the sake of national security," he said.

Hu said that it was both pointless and impossible for the ministry to amend the proposal and send it back to the Legislative Yuan again before the deadline of Feb. 1 next year.

"It is simply too late and meaningless," Hu said.

"The proposal is the result of our professional assessments. It is meaningless to change a few numbers or digits in the proposal just to please lawmakers," he said.

Enough Money

Asked whether the ministry would consider a priority list for the three items if lawmakers do not allow enough money for the entire procurement package, Hu said that it would not be possible to divide up the equipment.

"These three items are bound to each other. We will not sacrifice any of them, because we need to buy them all at the same time," Hu said.

Hu said that the country is facing serious military threats from China and that this was the main reason behind the composition of the proposed package.

"The biggest military threat from China is its submarines. The second threat is its missiles," he said.

"Their submarines are capable of carrying out missions as far as Guam and their missiles can land on any spot in Taiwan," he said.

He then gave an assurance that Taiwan will not be the first to launch an attack.

"First of all, we will only fight back if they [China] attack us. Also, we will only attack their military sites, not innocent people," Hu said.

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