The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) will consider allowing debate on the administration's major arms purchase bill at the legislature if the administration immediately boosts defense spending to 3 percent of GDP, a senior KMT official said yesterday.
Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權), executive director of the KMT's Central Policy Committee and party whip at the legislature, said that of the three major items in the arms procurement package, the anti-missile batteries have already been vetoed in a referendum, so the KMT will only consider approving the purchase of the eight conventional submarines and 12 P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircraft, and only through the defense ministry's regular annual budget.
"The bill must be legal and reasonable, and not a single cent should be wasted," he said.
Sun Ta-chien (孫大千), deputy convener of the PFP's legislative caucus, agreed that his party will consider allowing the bill to be debated if the administration agrees to list the funding for the purchase of the submarines and anti-submarine aircraft in the ministry's regular annual budget instead of in a special budget.
Sun said the government must also settle the legal issue surrounding the referendum held in conjunction with the presidential vote last year, a referendum concerning the nation's anti-missile capability in which less than 50 percent of the eligible voters participated -- a response rate that rendered it null.
The two pan-blue lawmakers were responding to President Chen Shui-bian's (
Tseng assured that his party and the PFP will remain united when it comes to reviewing the arms purchase bill at the Legislative Yuan.
A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator said yesterday that the opposition parties should express their real stance regarding the arms procurement plan so that the administration can make the necessary changes.
Noting that Chen has on many occasions stated his intention to boost the country's defense spending, Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), a co-convener of the Legislative Yuan's National Defense Committee, urged the president to show determination in implementing his promise.
To his understanding, Lee said, if defense spending is to be raised to 3 percent of GDP by 2008, then the annual military budget needs to be increased by NT$50 billion (US$1.49 billion) for each of the next three years, which he urged the government to do.
Lee said that although it is the executive branch's responsibility to list the budget, the opposition parties, which hold a slight majority in the legislature, should state clearly their stance regarding the arms purchase package, namely whether they want it listed in the regular annual budget or scrapped altogether.
The original arms procurement bill called for the purchase of the three items in the package -- eight diesel-electric submarines, a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft and three Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries from the US -- to be financed through a special budget.
The Executive Yuan has since made changes to the bill, which now calls for the Patriot anti-missile batteries to be financed via the defense ministry's regular annual budget.
Lee expressed concerns that the fact that the bill has been stalled in the legislature for so long may make it more difficult to convince the US and other countries to sell the nation weapons in the future.
Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus whip Ho Ming-hao (
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