PRESIDENT URGES LEGISLATIVE BACKING FOR MILITARY PROCUREMENT
Taipei, June 10 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian asked Thursday for legislative support for a major military procurement program put forward by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) for the sake of the country's long-term defense capabilities, according to lawmakers of the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU).
TSU lawmakers made the revelation following an informal gathering with Chen in which TSU Chairman Huang Chu-wen, ranking officials of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) such as DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung and his deputy, Lee Ying-yuan, as well as Secretary-General of the Presidential Office Su Tseng-chang, also took part.
Chen was cited as pointing to the planned purchase of submarines -- the most disputed item on the MND's procurement list -- as an example by calling on the legislature to approve the ministry's budget allocations as soon as possible on the grounds that the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has been friendly in agreeing to provide the procurement opportunity to Taiwan.
As the procurement of the eight diesel-fueled submarines has been procrastinated over for three years since the Bush Administration gave its permission for the sale, the Legislative Yuan should give a green light as quickly as possible as part of the government's efforts to display its resolve to safeguard Taiwan, the president was quoted as saying.
Since Taiwan is still unable to build submarines on its own, the government remains firm on its decision to buy them from the United States, Chen said, according to the TSU lawmakers.
Chen went on to urge the legislature to cooperate in giving its nod quickly now that the issue also has gained some public support, they said.
Chen also stressed that the price asked by the United States can be discussed, but he added that the budget appropriations must be approved in time so as to secure U.S. willingness to construct the vessels for Taiwan.
The president gave its assurances that the MND's military buildup program spanning the next 15 years will not cause a financial burden on the government and he expressed his hope that the budget allocations will clear the legislature as soon as possible.
The MND called a news conference last Friday to detail their budget allocations worth NT$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) for the program in conjunction with the United States amid grave public concern over the huge spending amount.
Top navy brass said that they are intent on purchasing eight conventional submarines and 12 P-3C anti-submarine planes, while their army counterparts said that they project to acquire six batteries of Patriotic PAC-3 missiles and relevant facilities.
(By Flor Wang)
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