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Central News Agency

2005-06-21 14:21:13

    Washington, June 20 (CNA) Opposition Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan said in a letter sent recently to a group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives that Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party government should bear responsibility for the deadlock that has prevented Taiwan from purchasing U.S. arms.

    Thirty U.S. House representatives, including Henry J. Hyde , chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sent a co-signed letter to Lien on May 27, saying that the failure of Taiwan's legislature to pass the special budget for the arms procurement has raised U.S. concerns about Taiwan's ability to defend itself against potential Chinese aggression.

    In the letter, they urged Lien and his party to support the U.S. arms procurement plan and help push the Legislative Yuan to pass the relevant bill as soon as possible.

    Pointing out in his letter to the U.S. lawmakers that the Kuomintang has always believed in credible defense capabilities while advocating peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, Lien said that his party also believes that political prudence should go hand in hand with a strong deterrence, while not trying to unilaterally change the status quo. "For these reasons, the KMT actively supported military procurements over the past five decades when it was in power, and it will continue to do so in the future," he noted.

    Touching on the current arms procurement plan, the KMT head said that although U.S. President George W, Bush approved the arms sales package to Taiwan in April 2001, which includes diesel submarines, anti-submarine aircraft and PAC-3, the current DPP administration in Taiwan procrastinated for three years and did not present a special budget request, for NT$610.8 billion, until June 2, 2004, only nine days before the legislative session was set to end. "The long delay could only be due to administrative incompetence or lack of political leadership, and certainly not to legislative or partisan obstruction," Lien claimed.

    He also said that Taiwan lawmakers were preoccupied with their re-election campaigns after the autumn session began in September last year and therefore, serious debate only began early this year when the new legislature convened. Although Lien admitted that this represented a long delay, he pointed out that the DPP administration was well aware of Taiwan's political calendar. "To try to squeeze the arms package through the legislature in June 2004, in my view, bespeaks a lack of serious intent on the part of the DPP administration," Lien added.

    Regarding the funds needed to purchase the U.S. arms, the Ministry of National Defence first indicated to the Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan in a closed-door session in May 2002 a figure of NT$280 billion, although no budget request was presented at the time, Lien noted. He added that nobody in the DPP government ever explained to the nation why the price suddenly skyrocketed to NT$610.8 billion in June 2004. "Now the figure has been reduced to NT$480 billion because of exchange rate fluctuations and the dumping of the so-called 'domestic assembly' plan for the submarines, but there is still a large discrepancy between this figure and the 2002 figure as reported in the press," Lien continued.

    According to the KMT head, other important questions on Taiwan's domestic debate on the military procurement issue stand out, including why everything was lumped together in a special budget request and nothing included in the regular annual budget. He said that some legislators believe that the annual budget should be used as much as possible for the arms procurement, and then a special budget could be considered.

    To the surprise and dismay of many supporters of the arms package, the DPP administration first presented it in two scanty pages in June 2004, Lien said. Since then, the Ministry of National Defense's explanations have been nothing more than a few sporadic and brief pages and slides, he noted, saying it is no wonder that some political commentators have joked that the DPP administration has been more interested in explaining the plan to Washington than to the Taiwan people.

    President Chen Shui-bian himself also committed a serious blunder by insisting on holding a referendum on the same day as the last presidential election on whether or not Taiwan should purchase the PAC-3s, only to see the referendum result nullified as less than half of qualified voters cast their ballots, Lien said. He added that the Legislative Yuan's hands are tied, at least on this issue, by Article 30 of the Referendum Act.

    Noting that the Legislative Yuan is now in summer recess, Lien expressed the hope in the letter that the ROC lawmakers will tackle the arms procurement bill in the next session.

(By Oliver Lin and P.C.Tang)


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