Sat, Dec 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

General says most people want arms bill in legislature

CNA , TAIPEI

More than 70 percent of voters support putting the US arms package bill on the agenda of the Legislative Yuan, while 52.8 percent want the country to buy the weaponry, according to General Hu Chen-pu (胡鎮埔), the head of the General Political Warfare Bureau, citing a recent poll.

The opinion poll was conducted by ERA, a local media group.

The arms procurement package proposes the purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines, 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarine warfare aircraft and six PAC-3 anti-missile batteries and Patriot missiles.

Political issue

"The arms purchase package has already become a political issue. Our only hope now is that the people's opinion changes the minds of the legislators," Hu said.

"The Ministry of National Defense has paid a visit to [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to brief him on the current situation," Hu said.

"Sure, we have different points of view, but we are still negotiating. If needed, the defense ministry will find time to give him more briefings," the general said.

The MND originally intended to have all three items financed by a NT$610.8 billion (US$18.4 billion) special budget, but later changed its mind and listed the six anti-missile batteries in its regular budget plan for next year while leaving the remaining two items in a NT$480 billion special budget plan.

The MND is now also considering having the P-3Cs included in the military's regular annual budget.

Submarines

Hu said the MND's bottom line is to have the submarines retained in the special budget plan to meet the US requirement. The eight submarines will call for an estimated outlay of NT$299 billion.

"This is our internal plan and we'll further consult with lawmakers from across the political spectrum to better understand their opinions and seek their support for the critical procurement project," Hu said.

He added that the military cannot lump all three items into its regular annual budget plan, because that would drain funds for other plans.

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