Fri, Mar 18, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Lee links arms budget to China threat

LEGISLATIVE THEATRICS While the defense minister was defending the smaller weapons budget, Legislator Li Ao brought out some props to get his message across

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

While the People's Liberation Army (PLA) does not have the capability to launch an attack against Taiwan now, it might have such a competence between 2020 and 2035 if the legislature fails to pass the arms procurement budget, Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) told lawmakers yesterday.

"While the combat capability ratio between China and Taiwan is 1.67 to 1, it is estimated that it will rise up to 2.8 to 1 between 2020 and 2035 without the deployment of the weaponry included in the arms procurement plan," Lee said, adding that the PLA will have full capability to initiate a military assault when the ratio reaches 3 to 1.

Lee made the remarks yesterday morning while delivering a report on the arms project to the legislature's National Defense Committee.

The Executive Yuan approved a revised version of the special arms bill on Tuesday that set a ceiling on the NT$480 billion (US$15.47 billion) budget. The original price tag was NT$610.8 billion.

The budget would pay for six Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile defense systems, 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft and eight diesel-powered submarines.

During the question-and-answer session, independent Legislator Li Ao (李敖) surprised the audience when he pulled out a leash and a knife to make a point.

"The US government is treating us like its watchdog," Li said, waving the leash and a book about Taiwan-US relations. "According to the Taiwan Relations Act, the US government must `provide' Taiwan with arms of a defensive character. Mind you, it does not say `sell.'"

He then proposed filing a lawsuit against the US government for failing to fulfill its promise.

Lee, however, dismissed Li's proposal as "unfeasible."

Li then yanked out a carving knife from his pocket and asked Lee to show his resolve to protect Taiwan.

"People First Party [PFP] Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) once quoted US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Lawless as saying that the US government would like to see us show our resolve to defend ourselves by buying those weapons," he said.

"There are many ways to show your determination. Using this knife to cut off your balls is one of them," he said.

Such a dramatic gesture, Li said, would deliver a much more powerful message than just buying weapons.

While the lawmaker continued to urge Lee to accept his offer, the minister dismissed it as "irrelevant."

In related news, the PFP legislative caucus yesterday reiterated its opposition to the arms procurement plan, insisting that the budget be earmarked as a regular annual budget and reiterating that it is too expensive.

The director of the PFP caucus office, Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠), a former lawmaker, said that her party's position on the matter is clear.

"We opposed the NT$610.8 billion arms budget and we oppose the NT$480 billion budget," she said. "We find those figures unreasonable and unconvincing."

The budget should be earmarked as part of a regular annual budget and her caucus will ask the legislature's Procedure Committee to reject the inclusion of the special budget bill in its agenda on Tuesday.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus has planned to include the bill in the committee's agenda on Tuesday, hoping to push it through to committee review.

PFP Legislator Chao Liang-yen (趙良燕) said that her caucus is not adverse to buying weapons to protect the nation.

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