US concerned over arms
US officials have expressed concern over the delay in the arms procurement plan, saying it threatened Taiwan's security. During recent meetings with a group of visiting Taiwanese journalists, many US officials, members of Congress and academics raised similar questions regarding what they see as Taiwan's inability to reach a consensus on the arms procurement plan and show the US its resolve to defend itself from a Chinese invasion. The Cabinet-proposed NT$480 billion (US$15.33 billion) arms procurement package -- which includes 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft, six Patriot PAC-III anti-missile batteries and eight diesel-electric submarines -- has been blocked by the opposition-controlled legislature for two consecutive sessions. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party have picked at the high price tag of the deal and the way the procurement is budgeted.
■ Cross-strait ties
Fruit export talks to be held
The government will hold unofficial talks with China on Taiwanese fruit exports, local media reported yesterday. "The World Health Organization [WHO] will hold a working meeting in Hong Kong next month. Taiwan and Chinese representatives will hold unofficial talks on fruit export to China," Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC) quoted Tai Cheng-yao (戴振耀), deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, as saying. "Through the consultation, we hope to sign an agreement with China on the export of Taiwan fruits to China," Tai said. China made a series of goodwill gestures to Taiwan after two opposition leaders visited Beijing in late April and early May. China's offer included two giant pandas, allowing the import of fruits and letting Chinese tourists visit Taiwan. China said it would open its market to 18 kinds of fruit and exempt tariffs on 12 of them.
KMT, PFP to work together
A Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) official suggested yesterday that the nominees of the KMT and its People First Party (PFP) ally for the year-end city and county chief elections coordinate with each other to produce a joint candidate for each city and county. Liao Feng-teh (廖風德), director of the KMT's Organization and Development Committee, made the suggestion when he spoke on how to coordinate the candidates of the KMT and the PFP. Both parties have decided to start to talk about cooperation in the year-end elections on June 22, when the two parties will have decided their candidates for the elections. Liao said that the KMT has prepared its own integration mechanism for the two parties and that it will consider whether to conduct public and party opinion polls or consult opinion leaders among the candidates of the two parties.
DPP to work on consensus
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) will invite mayors and commissioners from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as well as the heads of the DPP chapters in cities and counties around the country to a tea party on Tuesday, a lawmaker said yesterday. Lai Ching-te (賴清德), a DPP legislative whip, said the informal meeting at the Taipei Guest House is aimed at forging intra-party consensus on strategy for the year-end local government chiefs elections. President Chen has organized four similar meetings with DPP legislators since May 18 to explore lawmakers' views on major policy issues.