Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Defense minister warns exodus if budget fails

LAST SOLDIER Lee Jye warned those who are able to do so to flee to the US if there is continued legislative interference with the country's defense budget


Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday warned Taiwanese to flee to the US if the legislature fails to pass the NT$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) arms procurement budget.

"Those who can go to the US can go, and the rest will remain in Taiwan and fight until the last soldier is gone," Lee said.

Lee made the remark while answering reporters' questions at a military ceremony yesterday in Taipei.

Lee declined to make any comment to the throng of reporters on reports that he had spoken to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and tendered his resignation because of the legislature's refusal to back the budget.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington, David Lee (李大維), said that recent differences between Taiwan and the US were "not as bad" as they might seem and that the Bush administration had not shifted its policy.

Speaking at his monthly press conference with Washington's Taiwan press corps, Lee said communication channels between the two countries had been "very effective," and that the bilateral relationship was "stable."

But, using the words "frank" and "honest," he indicated that communication with the US had been strained lately.

Lee also said he expected Taiwanese and American officials would discuss relations between the two countries next month when a Taiwanese delegation visits Washington to attend the Jan. 20 inauguration of US President George W. Bush.

"I'm sure there are some misunderstandings between the two countries," Lee said. "But overall, the situation is really not as bad as some have described. We have very effective channels of communication and our discussions have been frank and honest.

"I think that up to this moment, we do not have as many misperceptions as many people have suggested," he said.

He said that the US government had "reassured us several times" that there had been "no change in the basic policy vis-a-vis Taiwan," nor any changes "in US pledges to Taiwan."

Lee's comments come in the wake of US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's comments that the US was under no obligation to come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked, and that Washington agreed with Beijing that Taiwan is part of China.

Speaking on Beijing's plan to enact an anti-secession law during the next session of the National People's Congress in March, Lee said that he had discussed the matter privately with US officials.

"This is something I consider to be a very serious matter," Lee told the Taipei Times. "I think this is a very important issue in terms of the triangular relationship [Washington, Taipei and Beijing] for the year 2005. I hope the Beijing side will exercise some restraint. Otherwise, it will further complicate this triangular relationship and make the regional situation more unstable."

Lee said the Bush administration had been cautious in its public statements because it had not seen the text of the planned legislation.

Commenting on US Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that he was not concerned about Beijing's new defense white paper, Lee said that Powell was referring to the immediate threat.

"But I think the potential threat is there, there's no question about it," Lee said.

Additional reporting by Huang Tai-lin

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