Sat, Jan 01, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Top 10 Taiwan Stories: Arms budget stirs passions

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-lang, center, looks on as the arms budget is again rejected by the pan-blue controlled legislature on Dec. 14.

PHOTO: CHEN TSE-MING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) propounded a special NT$610.8 million budget plan (US$18.23 billion) to procure weapons systems from the US earlier this year and the Cabinet sent it to the legislature for approval in June, but the legislature still had not approved the budget plan by year's end, and the statute governing the purchase due to strong opposition from the pan-blue camp.

The budget is to be spent over the next 15 years. While NT$412 billion would be earmarked for eight diesel-electric submarines, NT$145 billion would be allocated for six Patriot anti-missile systems and NT$53 billion for 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft.

The government claimed that the arms procurement was necessary for Taiwan's defense and balance of the military forces between Taiwan and China.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), to back up the arms procurement, even threatened to resign if the legislature vetoed the budget plan, and he did so in December although the president has not accepted his resignation.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also led a delegation of lawmakers to visit the US in the summer to examine the weapons systems intended for Taiwan, and the US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz warned Taiwan during the visit that if Taiwanese people were not interested in procuring the weapons to protect themselves, the US would not be, either.

But the opposition camp has questioned the cost as excessive, especially for the submarines.

The opposing voices question the MND's policy to have the submarines assembled domestically, because domestic assembly would cost much more than having the submarines built overseas, yet the domestic assembly policy was originally a resolution made by the Legislative Yuan.

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