Pentagon committed to weapons package: MND

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Jan 04, 2006 - Page 2

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday that the Pentagon had reaffirmed its commitment to the arms procurement package, clearing up any confusion created by remarks that the US is open to adjustments to the package.

"Deputy Minister Michael Tsai (蔡明憲) visited the US last month and received reassurances from the Pentagon on the sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan under the special arms package," Ministry spokesman Rear Admiral Liou Chih-chien (劉志堅) said.

"The US Department of Defense, which takes responsibility for arms sales to foreign countries, has firmly assured its counterpart, Taiwan's MND, that its view on the arms bill has not changed," Liou said.

The Pentagon has never asked the MND to adjust the arms procurement list, Liou added. He made the statements at a press conference in response to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) and legislators' remarks on the US' changing view of the country's procurement budget bill during Monday's legislative meeting.

Liou said that shortly after Monday's legislative meeting, Chen cleared up the matter with the MND through Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍), who said that while different people in the US have made various comments about the special arms bill, they do not represent the US' official stance.

When asked whether Chen's remarks implied that the Pentagon and the US State Department have different views on the arms sale to Taiwan, Liou said that Chen has not discussed the special arms bill with American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal.

"Defense ministries are in charge of arms procurement and other ministries can only play supporting roles," Liou said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator John Chiang (蔣孝嚴) said on Monday that Paal has confirmed that the items and prices of the arms procurement budget are adjustable, depending on Taiwan's own needs.

Chen agreed that the US is open to adjustments to the items and prices in the arms package and added that he welcomed such proposals and could pass them on to Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑).

The MND originally created a NT$480 billion (US$14.5 billion) special budget to buy three PAC-3 anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-powered submarines and 12 P-3C Orion submarine-hunting aircraft.

In response to the pan-blue camp's opposition to the bill, the ministry tried to compromise last month by including the 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in the regular defense budget.

Lu said yesterday that the MOFA respects the MND's handling of the issue and is playing only an assisting role.

Additional reporting by Chang Yun-ping