Fri, Dec 02, 2005 - Page 2 News List

General backs arms-procurement package

By Mac William Bishop  /  STAFF REPORTER

General Hu Chen-pu, the director of the Political Warfare Bureau, gestures while giving a presentation in this undated file photo.


The people of Taiwan support the procurement of three major weapons systems from the US, according to the military's top political warfare officer, and it is important to understand that the issue is not a question of politics, but of defense.

In a recent interview with the Taipei Times, the head of Taiwan's political warfare department, General Hu Chen-pu (胡鎮埔), spoke at length about the stymied arms procurement from the US.

Originally, a special budget that would have allowed Taiwan to purchase three major weapons systems from the US -- including 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, three PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile batteries and eight diesel-electric submarines was proposed by the government last year. The special budget has languished in the Legislative Yuan ever since, due to opposition from the pan-blue alliance, which holds a legislative majority.

The MND even removed the Patriot missiles from the special budget, seen as a major concession to critics of the bill, and included them in the annual defense budget.

Hu served as the liaison between the MND and the legislature, and headed the ministry's efforts to gain support for the procurement among legislators. He has now spearheaded the ministry's efforts to explain the details of the arms procurement to the public.

One of the major criticisms of the plan has been the cost of the submarines, which some lawmakers have described as "excessive." Hu said, this is not the case.

"Of course, many people do not understand the complexities of the arms procurement process in Taiwan," Hu said. "Due to the nature of the arms trade, it is important that a budget for procurement is available before production begins. Therefore, the price for this procurement is not the final price, as there has to be a degree of flexibility."

Since the MND has decided to pay for the PAC-3 anti-missile batteries using the military's annual budget, many experts have claimed that this will have an impact on other programs that the military is pursuing. Hu was more specific.

"If the cost of the items on the special budget is included in the annual budget, it will prevent Taiwan from buying any other new weapons systems for 10 years," the general said. "If two-thirds of the cost were included, it would mean that we could not pursue new systems for 8 years."

"As it is, with the PAC-3s included in the annual budget, 109 major military procurement projects will be affected," he said.

But although a lot of people have focused on the three items in the special budget, the political stalemate in the legislature has left the military with more woes than many people imagine.

"For next year, there are 65 items that the military is trying to acquire. Of these, we have had to delay 53," Hu said. "This is why it was very exciting to hear the president say that the defense budget would be increased to 3 percent of the GDP [Ed.'s note: the nation's defense budget for this year stands at approximately 2.4 percent of the GDP, around US$8 billion]. If the budget hits 3 percent, it will solve many of the military's problems."

The general also pointed out that, aside from the issue of arms procurement, the military had made positive steps in other areas, such as in preparing Kidd-class destroyers for delivery from the US.

"[US Marine Brigadier General] John Allen [the Department of Defense's director for Asian and Pacific Affairs] got a very good impression of Taiwan's navy because of the Kidd program. He was surprised by the quality of our logistics," Hu said.

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