Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Satellite images released to urge arms budget support

BIRD'S EYE VIEW Satellite photos of air and missile bases in China were shown as the defense ministry tried to get the nation behind the arms procurement plan

AFP , TAIPEI

The Ministry of National Defense yesterday released satellite photos of Chinese military bases in an rare move aimed at winning support for the long-stalled arms procurement plan.

"The ballistic missiles deployed in Leping, Yongan and Ganzhou in Jiangxi Province pose the biggest threats to Taiwan," an unidentified army officer told reporters as he showed satellite photos.

The Pentagon warned last year that China had deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan.

fighters deployed

Another Taiwanese military officer said China's People Liberation Army has deployed fighters and bomber fleets at four air bases in Fujian province facing Taiwan.

"Russian-made Su-27 fighter jets were found for the first time in July last year at Liancheng [in Fujian]," the officer said.

"The photo clearly shows the Su-27 fighters were armed with missiles. They can fly into Taiwanese airspace in just seven minutes."

"We are racing against time. If we don't do it [arms purchase] today, we'll regret it tomorrow," Defense Minister Lee Jye (李傑) told a press conference.

badly needed

He said Taiwan badly needs the US$10 billion package of defensive weaponry from the US to deter an attack.

Lawmakers from the pan-blue parties have blocked the package 45 times, even though the total cost has been scaled back from US$19 billion.

The opposition insists the arms bill is illegal after Taiwanese voted against expanded arms purchases in the nation's first referendum held simultaneously with presidential polls in March 2004.

The latest version of the arms bill calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines and 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft from the US over a 15-year period for around NT$340 billion (US$10 billion).

The six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems included in the original bill would now be financed as part of the government's yearly budgets.

Some opposition lawmakers said Taiwan could not afford the arms deal. Others said the equipment would be delivered too slowly to enable the nation to keep up with China's military build-up.

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