U.S. OFFERS CHEAPER PRICE FOR PATRIOT PAC III: MND REPORT
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 20 (CNA) The United States has offered a cheaper price for the Patriot PAC III anti-missile system to be sold to Taiwan, according to a Ministry of National Defense (MND) report sent to the Legislative Yuan Sunday.
The report said the U.S. military has agreed to deduct the research and development cost from the Patriot PAC III price to be offered to Taiwan.
According to the report, each Patriot PAC III missile to be sold to Taiwan carries a price tag of about US$3.01 million, lower than the US$3.2 million price offered to the Netherlands and Japan.
In the face of China's ever mounting missile threat, the MND report said Taiwan badly needs to purchase the Patriot anti-missile defense system. "As China has pointed hundreds of tactical missiles at Taiwan, we urgently need to purchase anti-missile defense system to safeguard our national security," the report said.
At present, the report said, the military's anti-missile system can only protect northern Taiwan.
Noting that the Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries can be flexibly deployed and fired by a remote-controlled system, the report said the planned procurement of six Patriot PAC IIIs is aimed at beefing up the nation's anti-missile defense capabilities. "Once we acquire the new anti-missile defense system, we'll be able to protect major cities in northern, central and southern parts of the island as well as major strategic locations from China's missile attacks," the report said, adding that the new batteries are expected to offer protection for 70 percent of local population and more than 60 percent of industrial production facilities.
The six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries are part of a package of advanced weapons Taiwan intends to buy from the UNited States. The package also includes eight diesel-electric submarines and a squadron of 12 Orion P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.
The Cabinet already approved the MND's proposal to mark down the budget ceiling for the procurement package from the original NT$610.8 billion to NT$480 billion (US$15.48 billion) after a plan to build the submarines in Taiwan was dropped and the new Taiwan dollar has appreciated against the U.S. currency in recent months.
The revised procurement proposal will soon be referred to the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan for screening and approval. The MND report about the Patriot PAC III's performance and price tag was part of the ministry's efforts to seek legislative support for the bill.
The arms procurement package has been stalled for a long time. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus urged the opposition camp Sunday to stop boycotting the package for the sake of national interests.
DPP legislative whip Lai Ching-teh said he keenly hopes the opposition People First Party (PFP) can agree to include the package into the March 25 legislative screening agenda to allow for rational debate on the arms procurement issue.
Lai said that the DPP legislative caucus will take the initiative to negotiate the issue with its PFP counterpart in the hope that the proposed statute can be included on the legislature's agenda for the March 25 session and passed on to a legislative committee for further review.
Terming the package as a major measurement of reconciliation and cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties, Lai said that both President Chen Shui-bian and PFP Chairman James Soong have voiced their support for the proposal in a 10-point joint statement issued at the end of their high-profile Feb. 24 meeting.
Should the PFP legislative caucus block the package from being included on the legislative agenda, it will trigger misgivings among the public about the significance of the Chen-Soong meeting, Lai explained, adding that neither party wants to see this.
(By Sofia Wu)
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