Sat, Oct 29, 2005 - Page 3 News List

PFP blamed for impasse

STYMIED BILL Visiting researchers from a US think tank said that the PFP leadership is blocking even its own party members from compromising on the US arms bill

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

A visiting researcher from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative US think tank, blamed the leadership of the People First Party (PFP) for holding hostage the long-stalled US arms procurement deal, but said he was optimistic the bill could eventually pass.

AEI research fellow Dan Blumenthal, who served from 2002 to last year as the head of Taiwan affairs in the Defense Department, said that rival parties in the legislature would likely be able to cut a deal were it not for PFP leadership.

"Below the leadership levels, people in the PFP who know the military matters will come to some sort of agreement with DPP," Blumenthal said. "This has become a political football. Once it goes to the defense committee with their experts, we believe strongly that something will pass."

Blumenthal said that a number of "serious PFP military types" realized Taiwan's need to upgrade its defense capabilities by passing the special arms budget.

Blumenthal made the comments after he and other researchers from the AEI met with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), during which they exchanged views with Ma on the ongoing arms bill impasse and voiced US concerns that domestic politics is interfering with Taiwan's national security.

AEI researcher Gary Schmitt, a former adviser to the Pentagon, told reporters that the KMT leader appeared to want to make progress on the bill.

"There is a sense that [Ma] would like to move forward on this, but that unfortunately, his junior partner in the [Legislature Yuan,] the PFP, is making that impossible to do it at this point," Schmitt said.

AEI president Christopher DeMuth yesterday urged Taiwan not to let political bickering stand in the way of national defense.

"It is a matter of concern to the United States and AEI that the politics in Taiwan has been interfering for a long time the necessary steps for prudent self-defense," DeMuth said.

Asked about former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) calls for Taiwan to purchase offensive weaponry such as long-range missiles, Blumenthal said it is a "false notion" that Taiwan can get defense more cheaply through developing offensive capabilities.

"It would be very expensive to have the kind of capability that would actually matter if Taiwan were to go toward that kind of direction of striking capabilities. There is no defense on the cheap," Blumenthal said.

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