Chen slams arms bill delay

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Dec 28, 2006 - Page 3

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday lambasted opposition parties for delaying the arms procurement bill, saying they would likely reinforce US doubts about Taiwan's ability to defend itself.

The government originally submitted a special budget to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defense batteries and 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in 2003. It later revised its request, asking that the funds -- slashed from the initial NT$610.8 billion (US$19 billion) to NT$340 billion -- come from the Ministry of National Defense's annual budget.

"While the current legislative session is drawing to an end, the arms procurement plan has made very little progress," Chen said. "It reflects the problem with some political leaders' credibility and their negligence on national security issues."

Chen made the remarks while presiding over a biannual promotion ceremony for military officers yesterday morning.

"We are now way beyond party rivalry and this has dealt a serious blow to national security," he said. "It also deepens US doubts over Taiwan's ability to defend itself."

The US government has made it clear that thise legislative session was the perfect time to tackle the arms procurement package issue, Chen said, adding that time was running out.

Chen praised the armed forces for making so much progress over the years, particularly the nationalization of the forces, which means that they now serve the entire country as opposed to a single political party.

Chen said that even if the legislature and the media were going through a difficult period, as long as the armed forces are in order, political and national stability are not at risk.

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑), meanwhile, expressed his appreciation to the legislature.

Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang