Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Premier urges KMT chairman to support arms bill


Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday urged Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to persuade his fellow pan-blue lawmakers to support and approve the arms purchase plan from the US.

"I believe he [Ma] also realizes the importance of this proposal. I hope the pan-blue camp will stop boycotting this proposal and taking advantage of it as a political bargaining chip," Su said when approached by the press for comment.

"There is no free national defense. We have to pay something," the premier said.

Su said that to approve the arms procurement as soon as possible is the only way to maintain the nation's security at this point in time because the US is now the only country willing to sell weapons to Taiwan.

"I think he [American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young] made the point," Su said. "This is a great chance for us to strengthen our own power and defend ourselves. We should not miss it."

The US is not only the country which would sell weapons to Taiwan but also the only country which would dare to challenge China by helping Taiwan maintain peace over the Taiwan Strait, he said.

"However, we must know that politics changes fast. If this deal does not work out, no one can guarantee that future American political leaders will continue to support Taiwan for future procurement deals, or whether future US presidents will be willing to help," he said. "Defending Taiwan is more important than anything. It cannot wait."

At a separate venue yesterday, Ma, on the other hand, urged the governing and opposition parties to calm down and think before acting on the country's arms purchase plan from the US.

The last thing the parties should do is "hook the arms procurement bill together with domestic political conflict," Ma said while answering media inquiries.

Ma explained that the KMT and its political ally, the People First Party (PFP), agree that there must be a "reasonable budget" for the arms package.

The opposition claims that the package is grossly overpriced and have prevented it being tabled in the legislature's defense committee more then 50 times.

Ma said it is important for Taiwan to maintain a strong national defense.

"Do not think the country doesn't need any arms purchases only because the US representative to Taiwan has said something," he added.

Taiwan should "do whatever it thinks is necessary for the country no matter what the American said" Ma added, urging the public to support a "reasonable" arms procurement package in a rational manner "for only such support can really help Taiwan's national defense."

"That is what a sovereign country should do," said Ma.

PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday admitted that his party had different views from the KMT on whether to pass the arms procurement bill.

While the US is holding its mid-term election, Soong urged Taiwan not to rush the arms purchase so as to benefit the "arms dealers from the Republican Party."

"We should make the arms sale more transparent and prevent arms dealers from trying to make a profit from it," he said in response to a press query.

Soong said the price of the arms was "very unreasonable," and urged the US to offer a more reasonable price and "not to fool people who understand the issue better like me."

During a closed-door luncheon with local officials and opinion leaders in Taitung County yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was quoted as saying that he urged the pan-blue camp to be rational and let the long-stalled arms procurement package pass the legislature.

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