Thu, Sep 22, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blues criticize US warning

SHOCKED, OFFENDED KMT legislators suggested that the US did not understand Taiwan's situation and was in no place to urge passage of the US arms package


Legislators reacted along party lines yesterday to a US defense official's blunt warning Monday that the nation should take more responsibility for its own defense, with pan-blue lawmakers criticizing the remarks.

Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director Edward Ross said Monday that the special arms budget that has long been stalled in the legislature has become a "political football" which has been kept in play more to "entertain the players -- politicians -- than to serve the real needs of Taiwan."

Ross made the comments at a defense industry conference sponsored by the US-Taiwan Business Council in San Diego, California.

KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起), a member of the legislature's defense committee, said that he was surprised by the US comment, and that the US government may not fully understand Taiwan's political and financial situation.

Su said that Taiwan is not as well-off as the US government perceives as the GDP per capita for the second quarter of this year year was US$15,000 -- not US$25,000, as it has claimed.

The US also fails to recognize that the nation's first national referendum held last year in tandem with the presidential poll was a public "veto" of the purchase of Patriot missile batteries, Su said. He called on the US and political parties here to stop pointing fingers because such rebukes are bound to backfire.

Another defense committee member, KMT member Shuai Hua-min (帥化民), said that the US is not in a position to make such a senseless remark and that its criticism will be counterproductive. While he himself thinks the arms procurement plan is necessary, Shuai cast doubt on the price and quantity of the items.

In a bid to reach a KMT consensus on the controversial issue, the KMT has set up a task force to discuss the matter, Shuai said. The task force, which Shuai is on, is planning to conduct a survey to solicit opinion on the controversial issue and present the KMT's own version of the arms procurement bill to counter that proposed by the Ministry of National Defense.

But Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) urged his fellow legislators to heed the US official's remarks if the nation wanted the US to send troops to help protect Taiwan in a cross-strait conflict. Lee said that he does not consider the remarks a threat, but that Ross was simply urging Taiwan to shoulder more of its defense burden.

"The US has spent more than NT$1.5 trillion (US$45.4 billion) strengthening its military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure peace and stability. How can we sit idly by and do nothing?" he asked.

Since President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has said the country should boost its military budget to 3 percent of GDP by 2008, Lee said that the government should make an effort to put the president's words into practice.

Lee admitted that military budgets have dwindled over the years, but said that the trend began when Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was president.

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