Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Ma, Soong sidestep arms budget

PARTY LEADERS The PFP and KMT chairmen managed to reach a consensus on the flood budget issue, but failed to reach a conclusion on the arms-procurement package

By Mo Yan-Chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong, second left, and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou, right, entreat each other to go first when entering the KMT headquarters for a meeting yesterday. They are followed by PFP Secretary-General Chin Chin-sheng, left, and KMT Secretary-General Chan Chuen-pao, second right. Soong eventually entered first.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUI, TAIPEI TIMES

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) finally paid a visit to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday as the two discussed some of the important issues facing both parties.

While the two managed to reach a consensus on the flood budget issue, the meeting failed to generate any solid conclusion on the arms-procurement package.

Ma and Soong agreed that the problems posed in the aftermath of last year's referendum should be settled before pushing for the passage of the arms procurement bill in the Legislative Yuan.

They also decided that the flood budget issue is crucial and "should be resolved through a comprehensive plan created by both party caucuses."

"Chairman Soong and Ma agreed that since the 2004 referendum vetoed the arms procurement bill, we should respect the voice of the people. The consensus is that this problem needs to be further looked at before considering whether to push for the package," PFP Secretary-General Chin Chin-sheng (秦金生) reported after the Ma-Soong talks yesterday.

Both Chin and KMT Secretary-General Chan Chuen-pao (詹春柏) declined to comment on whether the KMT caucus will choose to ignore Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's (王金平) opinion and follow the PFP's decision to oppose pushing for the arms procurement bill. They said that the two parties' legislative caucuses would make the final decision.

Wang saidduring a meeting with Ma on Tuesday night to discuss the issue that the redrafted arms procurement bill should "eventually be put to review," although he agreed that the government should deal with a failed proposal in the country's first nationwide referendum before discussing the budget for the procurement of Patriot anti-missile batteries.

The items on the procurement list include eight diesel-powered submarines, three Patriot anti-missile batteries and 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.

Apart from leaving the issue of arms procurement bill to the legislature, Ma and Soong also passed the issue of the flood budget to the caucuses.

The pan-blue camp has criticized the government's NT$80 billion (US$2.5 billion) budget proposal for flood prevention as being "unorganized," and plan to present an alternative KMT-PFP version soon.

The long-delayed Ma-Soong meeting lasted for about an hour. Swamped by reporters and supporters, the two chairmen declined to comment on the talks as they walked out of KMT headquarters.

Before the meeting, however, Soong expressed his strong opposition to passing the arms-procurement package to the National Defense Committee for review, and said that his party "will not support the redrafted arms procurement package."

"During my stay in the US, I learned that the US did not set the budget price. The government's price is too high, and it is apparently using the country's money to bribe the US," he said.

Soong also blasted the government for its failure to handle the water shortage in Taoyuan County, and invited President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to discuss the issue.

"I am willing to debate the issue openly with President Chen at Shihmen reservoir and discuss solutions to the water shortage problem in Taoyuan County," Soong said.

Ma and Soong did not fully address KMT-PFP cooperation in the year-end election. Chin said that the two chairmen only discussed "principles" that the two parties will work closely to win the election.

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