The government yesterday played down concerns expressed by the US over its budget allocation for military spending and said the nation is firmly committed to building its capacity to defend itself.
“We are committed to self-defense. There is no need to doubt that. I do not believe that the US has ever questioned our determination to defend ourselves,” Kelly Hsieh (謝武樵), director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday.
Hsieh made the remarks at a regular press briefing when asked to respond to comments made by US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear — who was nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for Asia security affairs — that he would urge the nation to increase the defense budget to 3 percent of GDP if confirmed for the job.
Shear made the comments this week in written answers to questions from the US Senate Armed Services Committee.
During the US bipartisan congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan last week, US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce also mentioned the presidential campaign pledge made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008 to devote at least 3 percent of GDP to the nation’s defense expenditures.
Hsieh said the comments made by US officials over the nation’s military budget were more an “expression of views” than pressure.
The existing communication channels between Taiwan and the US have been working smoothly, and the two sides can discuss issues about how to consolidate bilateral relationship and maintain regional peace, Hsieh said.
Shear’s confirmation hearing comments were conducive to a healthy bilateral relationship, he added.
Taiwan’s military budget for this year was about 2.5 percent of GDP, the lowest it has been since Ma’s first year in office.
Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) was also asked yesterday about Shear’s remarks.
Lo said that the government has continued to enhance its defense capabilities and has shown its determination for self-defense.
Less-than-expected economic growth in recent years, due to a weak recovery in international trade, has severely strained military expenditures for this year, but the defense spending of NT$312.7 billion (US$10.3 billion) this year was maintained at the same level as last year, Lo said.
Despite the defense budget being less than 3 percent of GDP, the Executive Yuan has promised the Ministry of Defense that it will appropriate funds from the government’s reserve funds or other sources for major arms purchases, Lo said.