Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Top official in US for biannual military exchanges

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA, WASHINGTON

Chief of the General Staff Huo Shou-yeh (霍守業) is in the US for biannual military exchanges between Taipei and Washington, diplomatic sources in the US said on Friday.

Huo, who arrived in New York on July 13, visited Washington last Saturday through Monday. Huo toured the US Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Wednesday before heading on Thursday to Hawaii to visit US Pacific Command. Hou was scheduled to wrap up his visit yesterday, the sources said.

While visiting Washington, the sources said that Huo held talks with US Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill to exchange views on regional security issues.

Expressing hope at the talks that Taiwan and the US will increase military exchanges, Huo urged the administration of President George W. Bush to relax restrictions on visits to Taiwan by high-level US military officers, the sources said.

Huo proposed that Washington allow Taiwan to take part in US military exercises and asked that the US assist Taiwan with military improvements by helping Taipei beef up its joint warfare capabilities, the sources said.

The US officials expressed satisfaction that Taiwan's legislature had finally approved part of the budget for a long-stalled arms procurement package from the US.

Huo also reiterated Taiwan's desire to procure F-16 C/D fighter jets from the US and urged the Bush administration to issue a letter of offer and acceptance for the procurement as soon as possible, sources said.

While approving the budget for the current fiscal year, the Legislative Yuan froze one-third of the NT$16 billion (US$486 million) in funds earmarked for the F-16 C/D purchase plan. The freeze will be lifted if the Ministry of National Defense obtains US consent for the procurement by the end of October.

The budget also allocated NT$200 million in funding for research on the feasibility of purchasing diesel-electric submarines from the US; NT$6.1 billion for procuring submarine-hunting P3-C aircraft; and NT$3.5 billion in order to upgrade the performance of Patriot PAC-2 anti-missile batteries.

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