Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Arms package forced to wait as caucuses dig in

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The chances for the NT$610.8 billion arms deal with the US passing the legislature before the current session ends have decreased, with Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) showing little enthusiasm.

Before last weekend's election, the pan-blue camp said it objected to passing the entire figure of NT$610.8 billion, although at one point there seemed to be hope that the statute covering the deal could be sent to legislative committees for review.

But neither the statute nor the budget was sent in the end, and now that the pan-blue camp has retained its legislative majority, pan-blue lawmakers are showing no signs of softening on the weapons deal.

With the fifth legislature set to finish mid-next month, the Ministry of National Defense pushed for a deal again as Vice Minister of National Defense Lei Kuang-shu (雷光墅), accompanied by People First Party Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), met Wang yesterday in a bid for support.

But when Wang was asked about how he would handle the statute and the budget after the meeting, he was elusive and said it depended on the attitude of lawmakers.

"We will see what happens and decide whether to convene inter-party negotiations on the statute," Wang said.

Wang also denied suggestions by reporters that the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) had contacted him about the matter after the election.

At the same time, Wang pointed out that although the ministry had originally agreed to redraft the budget plan, the ministry had not done anything so far.

For his part, Lin said that he went to see Wang not to discuss the arms package, but rather to thank him for helping out with his election campaign.

But Lin also expressed doubt over whether the deal could be passed before the end of the final legislative session.

"The atmosphere now is not conducive for passing the bill, and it looks like that we will not be able to handle it during the rest of this legislative session," he said.

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