Despite grievances with its longtime Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) ally, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislative caucus yesterday said that it would support the controversial arms procurement plan this legislative session.
"For the sake of national security, it only makes sense to support the special bill and special budget of the arms procurement plan," TSU caucus whip Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) told the Taipei Times yesterday.
Lo said, however, that the caucus would like to see the legislature amend the resolution, reached during the last legislative session, which endorses the government's proposal to build part of the eight submarines in the plan domestically.
"We are thinking of changing it in such a way that local companies will be allowed to take care of the maintenance of the submarines, rather than actually building them," he said.
"We'd also like to add in a resolution that manufacturing companies cooperate with [Taiwanese] component parts companies."
Under the government's plan, the state-run China Shipbuilding Corp would send technicians overseas to observe construction of the first two submarines to learn about the design, materials, production and logistics.
The government hopes the company will then be able to build one-third of the hardware for the third and fourth subs. For the fifth and sixth, the government hopes to see the company build two-thirds of the hardware and then build the last two in their entirety.
As part of the procurement plan, Taiwan would acquire eight diesel-electric submarines, three Patriot-III anti-missile batteries and 12 anti-submarine aircraft from the US.
If the government gives up the plan to build the submarines itself, the defense ministry estimates that the budget can be trimmed down from the original NT$610.8 billion (US$19.6 billion) to NT$480 billion.
In related news, the relationship between TSU and the governing DPP took a turn for the worse following the high-profile meeting between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) on Friday. Disappointed at the 10-point consensus reached by the two, the TSU threatened its partnership with the DPP and pursue certain causes on its own, particularly the campaign to change the national title and rewrite the Constitution. The party would cooperate with the DPP in the legislature, but would not coordinate future election campaigns together, TSU officials said.
In addition to the arms budget, Lo said that his caucus will strive to push the passage of such bills deemed by the Chen administration to be "controversial" and considered inappropriate for fast tracking.
These include the statute on the disposition of assets improperly obtained by political parties (