DEFENSE MINISTER DENIES REPORT ABOUT ARMS PROCUREMENT BUDGETS
Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense (MND) denied a media report Wednesday that the ministry will put forward a NT$500 billion (US$15.11 billion) arms procurement budget plan for deliberation by the Cabinet before the March 20 presidential election.
Defense Minister Tang Yiau-min made the denial at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's National Defense Committee.
During the session, opposition Kuomintang Legislator Chiang Chi-wen asked Tang whether the MND really will finalize the special arms purchase budget plan ahead of the election as a local newspaper has reported.
In reply, Tang said the report is absolutely not true. "You can wait and see whether we present the reported budget proposal to the Cabinet before the election," he added.
The China Times quoted unidentified sources as reporting Wednesday that the MND has ordered the Navy and the Army to finalize their budget plans for purchasing eight submarines, 12 P3-C anti-submarine aircraft and three Patriot anti-missile batteries as soon as possible so that the ministry can refer a comprehensive budget plan to the Cabinet on March 18.
Tang dismissed the report as sheer speculation, stressing that arms procurement must follow institutionalized procedures. "The MND has established standard operational rules, and arms procurement budget planning must follow the rules without any exceptions, " Tang said, adding that he himself is unlikely to abuse his power to interfere with arms procurement budget planning procedures.
To the best of his understanding, Tang said, preparations for purchasing the stated weaponry systems have not yet reached the budget evaluation stage.
According to the unconfirmed newspaper report, procurement of the submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and Patriot anti-missile systems will cost about NT$520 billion.
The Bush administration already agreed to sell eight conventional submarines, 12 P3-C anti-submarine aircraft and three advanced Patriot anti-missile batteries to Taiwan in 2001. However, none of the deals have been completed partly because of the huge amount of funds needed for the procurement.
In Taiwan's first-ever nationwide referendum to be held alongside the upcoming presidential poll, the electorate will be asked whether Taiwan should acquire more missiles to defend itself against military threats from mainland China and whether the island should enter talks with Beijing for the establishment of a framework for peaceful interaction..
(By Sofia Wu)
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