Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 3 News List

State Department criticizes pan-blues

RESPONSIBLE LEADERS Sources pointed to rising dissatisfaction in Washington over the progress of the arms bills, despite pledges by Ma and Wang during their US trips

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

In an apparent criticism of pan-blue efforts to block the arms procurement package from reaching the legislative floor, the US State Department on Friday called on the Taiwanese to "hold their leaders responsible for preventing extraneous issues from interfering with urgent defense decisions."

At the same time, the US said "we applaud the Chen [Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration's defense spending goals."

The State Department also came to the defense of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young and indirectly slammed the opposition pan-blue forces for preventing the Legislative Yuan from acting on the proposed procurement of US weapons systems.

In a statement supporting the AIT director's comments on Thursday urging the legislature to approve the arms procurement budget this fall, the State Department said that Young's comments reflected the long-standing US position and assessment of Taiwan's defense needs in light of Beijing's break-neck military upgrade.

Sources say that the administration is increasingly frustrated over the Legislative Yuan's failure to act on the defense budget.

"The dissatisfaction is tactile here, in Congress as well as in the administration," said Michael Fonte, a consultant with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Washington.

"There is a growing dissatisfaction in Washington with hearing from some leaders in Taiwan that they are going to move forward on budgets and in seeing no response," he said.

He was referring to promises of action of the defense bills by both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) when they visited Washington.

Sources say that Young's comments were in response to orders he was given by the department during a 10-day trip he took to Washington earlier this month. Young briefed his superiors and talked to a wide range of people, including a number of think tanks in Washington, they said.

The sources also say the remarks were meant to reinforce those made by Clifford Hart, the coordinator of the State Department's Taiwan department, last month at a defense industry conference hosted by the US-Taiwan Business Council in Denver.

At that meeting, Hart said it was "urgent" that Taiwan boost its defense spending to counter any war in the Taiwan Strait, and called on Taiwanese leaders to "place national security above partisan politics," and "compromise and bury differences."

Hart also took an apparent potshot at Ma, saying "leaders who aspire to represent Taiwan's people in dealing with the American people should appreciate that their positions right now ... cannot help but inform the sort of relations they will have with Washington in the years to come."

Asked at the daily department press briefing on Friday whether Young still has US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's confidence, spokesman Sean McCormack said that "he's doing a good job" and the department has no plans to recall him from his Taipei post.

The State Department also issued a statement after the press briefing, in which a department official said Young's comments "reflect the United States' long time encouragement of an increase in Taiwan's overall defense spending and for funding a strategy that reinforces stability in the Taiwan Strait."

"Director Young's remarks are fully consistent with long-held US positions and are based on our assessment of Taiwan's defense needs," it said.

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