Mon, Dec 19, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Ma says funding not the only problem with arms bill

CNA , TAIPEI

Changing the funding method for the US arms procurement bill from a special military budget to a regular Ministry of National Defense budget will not necessarily make the package more acceptable to the legislature, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

The pan-blue caucuses will accept an arms procurement bill only when they consider it to have been drafted after professional assessments and when it genuinely meets Taiwan's defense needs, Ma said.

Ma said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has "indulged" itself in using the "special budget" proposal, a practice that apparently runs counter to the spirit of the special budget law and that was the main reason why pan-blue lawmakers have continued to block the bill.

Ma, however, said that even if the Executive Yuan changes the funding for the three weapon systems -- three PAC-3 "Patriot" anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft -- regardless of whether the arms procurement is funded by an annual budget or by a special budget, the government is still not coming to grips with the reason that the opposition is against the bill.

Ma made the remarks in response to an appeal by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on Saturday to the legislature to state clearly what should be done to break the deadlock over the weapons procurement.

Ma said that the opposition parties have never objected to arms procurement, but the pan-blue alliance is opposed to "cash-for-friendship" purchase plans.

Ma said that the country should jointly review what weapon systems are truly needed to beef up its defense. Should such a purchase only be confined to those three items as the administration has proposed? Or other weapon systems should also be considered?

Warning that China has been rapidly boosting its military might and that Taiwan must defend its freedom and democracy from being encroached upon by China, Chen said on Saturday that it's imperative for the legislature to debate issues concerning national security and cross-strait peace and to pass the arms purchase bill before the current legislative session ends late next month.

"If recent media reports are correct that both the government and the United States are willing to see the stalemate overcome by means of regular budgets, then the bill will no longer be a `special budget' bill and the legislature's Procedure Committee has no further cause to block it," he said.

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