Thu, Dec 15, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Items and prices of US arms negotiable: envoy

FLEXIBLE Taiwan's man in Washington said that the details of the purchase could all be tweaked, and that the US had not set a deadline for the arms deal

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Washington David Lee (李大維) said yesterday that the items and prices in the special US arms purchase bill are negotiable, and that the US has not set a deadline for Taiwan's passage of the long-stalled legislation.

"The US' stance is flexible in terms of prices and the items. It respects the democratic procedure in Taiwan's legislature. For example, if we think buying 8 out of 12 P3Cs is enough, that's okay," Lee said.

Lee made the remarks in the Legislature yesterday while giving his report on US-Taiwan bilateral relations.

He added that the US does, however, think the matter is linked to whether Taiwan demonstrates a will to defend itself.

Quoting the director of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency Ed Ross' remarks that "[The US] cannot help defend you if you cannot defend yourself," Lee urged the Taiwanese people to put pressure on their leaders to reach a consensus on increasing Taiwan's defense budget in the face of China's "clear and present" threat.

Lee yesterday also confirmed that the US government has suggested that Taiwan pay for arms from the regular defense budget, increasing the percentage of total GDP going to defense, as an alternative to the stalled special budget. According to Lee, the US has suggested that Taiwan raise the current 2.4 percent of GDP that goes to defense to 3 percent.

The idea has reportedly received approval from the Presidential Office and the opposition, raising hopes that the deadlock on the arms procurement budget -- which has been rejected 41 times in committee -- could be broken.

In response to Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Huang Shih-chou's (黃適卓) inquiry about the US' view on the director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office Chen Yunlin's (陳雲林) possible visit to Taiwan, Lee said the US thinks "it will be best if Chen can visit Taiwan. But if he comes to Taiwan but is not able to meet his counterpart, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) [chair of the Mainland Affairs Council], it would not be the correct thing to do."

Lee also pointed out that China in recent years has caught up with Taiwan in terms of lobbying at the Congressional and grassroots level in the US, eliminating its advantage in those areas.

media critic

Meanwhile, KMT Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) yesterday told the Legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs committee that the Taipei Times published biased information regarding the feud between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮).

Su pointed out that the headlines of all major Chinese-language newspapers yesterday reported that Chen issued a statement on Tuesday night that he thought the vice president was very "disturbing," but the Taipei Times had a headline that said the president remained silent on Lu's behaviors.

Su said this was evidence of deliberate suppression of the facts, and that the Taipei Times was biased in its news coverage.

Asked for a response to Su's claims, Taipei Times Deputy News Editor Mac William Bishop had this to say:

"It is not currently the policy of this newspaper to champion the cause of any political party," Bishop said. "We learned of the president's statement near our deadline, but unfortunately we were under the impression it was a routine press release from the Presidential Office, and not a direct response from Chen about this issue."

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