Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Better approach on arms bill urged

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Experts yesterday said the Executive Yuan and National Security Council (NSC) should step up their public support for the NT$480 billion (US$15.2 billion) arms bill since the budget has been blocked in the legislature.

"On the proposed three-item arms purchase from the US, I think the NSC has neglected its duty," said Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive director for the Institute for National Policy Research, at a seminar on national security.

The military has been carrying the burden of telling the public why the country needs the arms, but the military's duty is to defend the country, not to communicate with the public, he added.

"If we merely rely on the Ministry of National Defense (MND), the budget will never be approved," he added.

The NSC should speak to the public about the big picture of national security, and its arguments would have a better chance of winning public support, he said.

Alexander Huang (黃介正), a former vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council and now the director of the Graduate Institute of American Studies at Tamkang University, said that unlike civilian officials in the US defense department, almost all of Taiwan's MND officials are from military. As such, they were trained to defend the country, not to explain policy.

Before Taiwan democratized, the MND could obtain what it liked with little public input, Huang said. But now any large military purchase requires public support.

He said the NSC is the president's private consultative body, and that it would be improper for them to address the public. The Executive Yuan should take up that role, he added.

Ma Chen-kun (馬振坤), a professor at the Political Warfare College, said it was strange that the MND had launched campaigns to promote the arms bill. He agreed that the Executive Yuan should be the one to convince the public.

Chung Chien (鍾堅), a professor in National Tsing Hua University's nuclear science department, said the military has failed in its arms bill campaign. For example, he said, one of its last publicity campaigns was ridiculed for appealing to the public to cut back on one cup of milk tea per week to help pay for the arms budget.

He added that the MND's recent assessment of it and the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) capabilities made preposterous claims, such as saying that the military could use advanced Patriot missiles to hit the PLA's cruise missiles with a high interception rate, or claiming that the PLA will possess its first aircraft carrier in five years.

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