Sat, Oct 21, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Soong says PFP still opposes arms bill

HANGING TOUGH The PFP chairman said that while the KMT had softened its stance, his party did not buy the US line that arms would redress the cross-strait imbalance

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) said yesterday that his party would continue to strongly oppose the budget for the purchase of weapons from the US, even though the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had recently agreed to pass the bill.

"The biggest difference between the [PFP] and the KMT is that we have different views on the arms bill. We [the PFP] have never softened our position on the arms bill," Soong said at a press conference.

The long-delayed arms bill has previously been jointly blocked by the KMT and the PFP.

But the remarks Soong made in the press conference revealed that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has since April urged the PFP to review the bill.


"I met with Chairman Ma four times since April 2 and on each occasion Ma and KMT Secretary-General Chan Chun-po (詹春柏) tried to talk me into [reviewing] the arms bill," Soong said.

Soong said the PFP was in favor of enhancing the nation's defense capability but was not convinced that the items in the arms package were the right goods at the right price.

He said the cross-strait military imbalance was a symptom of the US severing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and that the arms deal would not help to redress the imbalance.

"The US wants to cheat us into believing that the military imbalance can't be redressed without the arms deal, but it's not that simple," Soong said.

The arms deal pending in the legislature calls for the purchase of P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, the upgrading of PAC-2 anti-missile batteries and an assessment on the need for submarines.

Soong said the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party, which together hold 175 of 220 legislative seats, don't need the PFP's help to pass the arms bill.

The PFP said on Thursday that the NT$200 million earmarked for assessing the need for submarines this year was acceptable, but that the NT$11.7 billion requested to complete the assessment by 2008 was not.

"We need more research to be conducted on the budget plan," Soong said, adding that the PFP disapproved of the possibility that the passage of the arms bill would constitute a guarantee that submarines would be purchased.

AIT rebuffed

Meanwhile, Soong said he had turned down a request from American Institute in Taiwan [AIT] officials for a meeting with him next week.

"There is no need [for the AIT officials] to see me. Right now I am not the PFP's representative," Soong said, without elaborating on why AIT officials wished to see him.

"It's not the right time to review the arms bill when millions of people are staging a sit-in [against the president]. Furthermore, AIT officials talked nonsense on Double Ten day," Soong said.

When asked by reporters to comment on the disruption of the Double Ten National Day ceremony, AIT Director Stephen Young had said that he thought it was inappropriate to "cause such a fuss" during a national celebration.

At a separate setting, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said yesterday that Young had visited him and Ma on Thursday.

Wang said the AIT official had expressed his concerns about the year-end mayoral elections in Kaohsiung and Taipei.

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