Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 2 News List

MND official to head to US meeting

MORE TALKS A ministry official said he will discuss the long-stalled US arms procurement bill with US officials at a US-Taiwan defense industry conference in California

CNA , LOS ANGELES

Vice Minister of National Defense Huo Shou-yeh (霍守業) said Sunday in Los Angeles that he will communicate with US officials on contentious parts of the US arms procurement package when he attends the fourth US-Taiwan national defense industry conference that opened in San Diego, California yesterday.

Huo was referring to the long-stalled package comprising three big-ticket weaponry items -- eight diesel-electric submarines, a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and three Patriot anti-missile batteries.

The opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan has blocked the passage of the package for more than a year because opposition lawmakers say the price is too high and that it should be listed under the regular budget rather than a special one. At the request of opposition parties, the Executive Yuan has therefore removed the Patriot batteries from the proposed special budget and included them in the Ministry of National Defense's annual budget instead.

Huo, at the head of a delegation attending the conference, said that since the meeting's sponsor, the US-Taiwan Business Council, is a non-governmental organization, the discussions will also be non-official.

The two-day meeting will focus on studying the state of US-Taiwan military cooperation and the outlook for Taiwan's future defense needs, Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said Sunday.

More than 100 people are expected to take part in the conference, including academics from US and Taiwanese think tanks, military specialists in charge of military cooperation, weapons researchers and military officials.

Hammond-Chambers said that Richard Lawless, US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, will not be able to attend the conference because he is preoccupied with the six-party talks on North Korea.

When Lawless spoke at last year's conference in Phoenix, Arizona, he urged Taiwanese legislators from across the political spectrum to support the arms procurement in order to show the country's determination to defend itself.

Edward Ross, a director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency under the Department of Defense, will attend on his behalf. Ross will also read a speech prepared by Lawless.

Hammond-Chambers explained that he also invited Ho Szu-yin (何思因), director of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)'s overseas department, to the conference to learn about the party's national security policy.

He said conference participants will explore the national defense needs of Taiwan, and added that Taiwan has the final say in any purchase or acquisition of US arms.

Though Hammond-Chambers will visit Taiwan in the middle of next month, he said that the purpose of his trip differs from that of a group of US congressmen.

US Republican congressman Rob Simmons is arranging that delegation, which will be comprised primarily of members of the US House of Representatives' Committee on Armed Forces.

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