Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 3 News List

US worried about Taiwan: minister

DEEP CONCERN The foreign minister told the legislature that although the US has a hands-off attitude about Taiwan's democracy, it was worried about its security

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Although the US respects Taiwan's democratic procedures in dealing with the long-stalled arms purchase bill, the nation's decreasing annual defense budgets have made the US deeply concerned about Taiwan's commitment to its own defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) said yesterday.

The foreign minister reported to the legislature yesterday on the US' view of the country's arms procurement budget bill, which has been rejected 42 times by the legislature's procedure committee.

Chen said that the US is open to adjustments to the items and prices in the arms package, including removing the PAC-3 missiles from the special budget and paying for them out of the regular annual defense budget instead. The US is also open to the idea of Taiwan gradually increasing its defense spending to three percent of GDP by 2008.

The US will stand by its commitment to Taiwan's security based on the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, Chen said. According to the 1982 Six Assurances made by the US to Taiwan, the US said it would not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan and would hold prior consultations with China on arms sales to Taiwan.

Nevertheless, "the gradual reduction of Taiwan's defense budget over the past ten years due to changes in the political landscape, and the threats posed by China's rising military power, have caused grave concerns in the US regarding whether Taiwan has a strong will to defend itself," Chen said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) yesterday said that the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal has confirmed that the items and prices of the arms procurement budget are adjustable, depending on Taiwan's own needs.

Chiang then proposed that Taiwan should not buy the submarines currently included in the arms package, because their "attack" capabilities are unnecessary and inappropriate for the nation's defense-focused military policy.

He suggested that the government make a new list of arms to procure, and also scrap the purchase of the PAC-3 missiles, since the current PAC-2 missiles which the military already possesses can be upgraded.

Chen responded that he welcomed such proposals and can pass on suggestions to Defense Minister Lee Jye (李傑). But Chen added that the opposition parties should at least allow legislative discussion on the arms bill.

Meanwhile, Lee yesterday skipped a public hearing held by the legislature's defense committee, saying that no "reasonable discussion" could take place with opponents of the arms bill.

Additional reporting by Rich Chang

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