Vice Minister of National Defense briefs lawmakers

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Dec 08, 2006 - Page 2

Vice Minister of National Defense Chu Kai-sheng (朱凱生) yesterday briefed the legislature's National Defense Committee on the benefits of upgrading the nation's PAC-2 Patriot missile batteries.

The briefing -- which was arranged to answer questions raised last month by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Su Chi (蘇起) during the review of partial funding for the arms procurement package being included in the ministry's annual budget for next year -- was held behind closed doors.

During last month's review, the committee provisionally approved funding of NT$3.5 billion to upgrade the nation's PAC-2 Patriot missile batteries, NT$6.1 billion to purchase 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and NT$200 million to assess the feasibility of submarines for next year.

However, the request for NT$4.2 million to fund the purchase of PAC-3 Patriot missile batteries for next year was refused.

Pan-blue lawmakers argued that a proposal to purchase the missile batteries was defeated in the referendum held on March 20, 2004, and that the government cannot push for the purchase until three years have elapsed.

The review still needs to be sent to the legislative floor for approval and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers had hoped to keep the door open for the purchase of the PAC-3 missile batteries.

"The [result of the] referendum will become invalid on March 20. It would be a good idea to temporarily freeze the budget [for the missile batteries] rather than cut it," DPP Legislator Tang Huo-shen (湯火聖) said.

But Su said that the ministry would have to request a new budget as temporarily freezing the budget would be in violation of the Referendum Law (公民投票法).

Su said that Chu's briefing yesterday had helped to convince him that the upgrading of the PAC-2 Patriot missile batteries was worthwhile.

"As Chu explained it, [the military advantage gained by upgrading the missile batteries] is considerable," Su said.