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 (
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 (
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 (
Lee admitted that military budgets have dwindled over the years, but said that the trend began when Lee Teng-hui (