Sat, Sep 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Have guts, pass arms bill: Chen

PEACE AND STRENGTH The president urged the legislature to support the revised package, and warned of calamity if the nation could not come together on defense

BY RICH CHANG  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Claiming that China's military drill with Russia was meant to parade Beijing's military strength before Taiwan and other countries, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday said the nation needed to swiftly approve the arms-procurement package to prove to the world that Taiwan was serious about its defenses.

"The joint China-Russia military drill attracted the close attention of the US, Japan and other countries. The unusually large-scale military drill has demonstrated some cutting-edge weapons to the world," Chen said yesterday during an Armed Forces Day presentation ceremony in Taipei.

"To appease American and Japanese concern over China's military buildup and the tipping of the military balance toward China, Taiwan needs to quickly approve the special arms bill to demonstrate to the world that the nation has the determination to defend itself," Chen added.

Chen said that China's more than 700 missiles targeting Taiwan and its introduction of the "Anti-Secession" Law in March showed Beijing's real intent.

He then called for the coming legislative session to pass the special arms budget quickly.

"Peace comes from strength, while war can only be prevented by preparation," he said.

Chen said the government had not changed its policy to procure three major weapon systems from the US, but that it had adjusted and reduced the arms budget to facilitate legislative approval.

The president said that if the nation were unable to procure advanced arms, and if the Taiwanese people failed to come together on matters of national security, then it would not be able to survive a military attack by China. The Taiwanese people, he said, would be destroyed.

The original arms-procurement bill would have purchased eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and three PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries.

Faced with repeated obstruction in the legislature, the government then transferred NT$133 billion -- covering the missile batteries -- to the regular defense budget, cutting the special arms bill to NT$340 billion.

Chen also said media criticism of a "toadying culture" in the military arose from a misunderstanding.

"The military has a glorious history and a grand tradition. I believe that there is heroism, and not an obsequious culture, in the military," he said.

The statement was a response to media reports on "sycophantic soldiers" at an air force base who reportedly canceled leave to practice a performance to welcome the president to the base. Chen later canceled the visit.

The reports said the military had tried to curry favor with Chen.

Media discussion on military culture in recent days had "deviated from the proper understanding of the sacred mission of the armed forces," Chen said.

He asked the public to treasure what is theirs, a situation that had been made possible partly because of the efforts of the armed forces, which, he said, had dedicated their time and energy to protecting the nation.

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