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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


ROC Central News Agency

2005-03-21 22:24:25

    Taipei, March 21 (CNA) Vice Minister of National Defense Huo Shou-yeh accentuated Monday the need for Taiwan to procure the U.S.-made Patriot PAC III anti-missile system, saying if the procurement plan is dropped, Taiwan will be unable to defend itself from China's missile attacks.

    Huo made the remarks while fielding questions from opposition lawmakers at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Defense Committee.

    In an attempt to persuade opposition lawmakers to support the Ministry of National Defense's (MND's) long-stalled arms procurement package, Huo said if the plan to purchase six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries is killed, Taiwan will not have any anti-missile capability in the foreseeable future.

    According to an MND written report presented to the legislative defense committee earlier in the day, Patriot PAC IIIs are the U.S. military's latest anti-missile system in active service. They are also the world's only batterfield-tested missile defense system.

    Quoting data provided by the U.S. miltiary, the report said, the chances of a Patriot PAC III interceptor hitting its target reaches 90 percent.

    During the 2003 Iraq War, the report said, the U.S. military deployed Patriot PAC II and PAC III anti-missile batteries in the batterfield. Iraq fired a total of 19 tactical missiles, with 10 falling in areas outside the Patriot's range and nine falling within the range. All of the nine Iraqi missiles entering the Patriot range were successfully intercepted, the report said.

    According to a Pentagon report released in September 2004, the Patriot PAC III has completed batterfield tests and been deployed. In test-firings conducted in March, September and November 2004, the Patriot PAC III interceptors all could directly hit the incoming targets.

    The MND report further said if its plan to purchase six Patriot PAC III batteries can clear the legislature smoothly, 70 percent of Taiwan's population and more than 60 percent of its industrial production facilities will be under the theater missile defense system's protection.

    Meanwhile, the report said the United States has offered a cheaper price for the Patriot PAC III batteries to be sold to Taiwan.

    As the U.S. military has agreed to deduct the research and development cost from the Patriot PAC III price to be offered to Taiwan, the report said, each interceptor will carry 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.

(By Sofia Wu)


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