DEFENSE MINISTRY TO TAKE ANOTHER STAB AT PUBLICITY FOR U.S. ARMS DEAL
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 3 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense is to increase its publicity and lobbying for a special budget for a major military procurement plan, defense ministry officials said Thursday.
The new wave of publicity will skirt sensitive political issues and focus on national security and peace in the hope of winning greater public backing, they said, admitting that last year's promotion urging people to "save a cup of tea every day in exchange for weapons" did little to further the defense ministry's cause.
This time around, Defense Minister Lee Jye, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Lee Tien-yu and Chief of the Political Warfare Bureau Gen. Hu Cheng-pu have decided to adopt a three-pronged strategy targeting the public, the legislative caucuses and several individual legislators to increase understanding of the issue, the officials said.
The ministry will lobby hard at the Legislative Yuan in an effort to win the support of a number of hardliners, they said. The defense ministry intends to first push for the passage of the special statute governing the major arms procurement project during the current legislative session and then have the arms package budget bill screened.
As a result of boycotts from the opposition "pan blue alliance, " bills pertaining to the NT$610.8 billion (about US$18 billion) arms procurement plan failed to be put on the agenda of the steering committee 14 times before the previous legislature ended in January.
The huge budget spurred heated debate at the opposition-dominated Legislative Yuan and provoked disapproval from the public due to the government's strained financial situation.
With the opening of the sixth Legislative Yuan in February, Lee said recently at a Spring Festival gathering with reporters that his ministry is prepared to slash the budget for the deal to NT$590 billion to compromise with the "pan blue alliance" composed of the Kuomintang, the People First Party and the New Party.
The price could be further lowered to NT$480 billion should a final decision be made not to build the eight diesel-powered submarines in Taiwan, Lee pointed out.
The "pan blue alliance" had asked the defense ministry to cut the budget by at least NT$300 billion.
(By Flor Wang)
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