MND YET TO DECIDE ON WHICH ARMS TO BE LISTED UNDER ANNUAL BUDGET
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, Aug. 6 (CNA) The Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Saturday that it has yet to decide on which items of an arms procurement package to place in its regular annual budget as it has yet to receive directives from the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan.
MND officials were responding to media reports that in order to facilitate passage of the arms procurement package by the opposition-controlled Legislative Yuan, the MND will not insist on all three items of the NT$480 billion (US$15.24 billion) package being financed by a special budget.
The three items in the arms procurement from the United States to be financed over a 15-year period are six Patriot PAC-III anti-missile batteries, eight diesel-fueled submarines, and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft.
According to the media reports, the MND hopes to have the submarines and aircraft financed by a special budget, with the Patriot batteries to be included in the (ministry's) regular annual budget.
One day after President Chen Shui-bian said that certain items of the arms procurement package could be financed with funds to be appropriated for the military's regular annual budget, a spokesman of the Executive Yuan said Friday that the Cabinet will make necessary adjustments in its annual budget for next year but that the MND will study which items, the amount, and the financing period of the package to be listed in the regular annual budget.
The opposition "pan-blue alliance" of the Kuomintang (KMT) and the People First Party (PFP) have blocked the arms procurement package from being put on the legislative agenda in the past two sessions, mainly because of the high price tag and the manner of financing it with a special budget.
However, a ray of hope seems to have appeared for the arms procurement package as outgoing KMT Chairman Lien Chan has said his party could accept a special budget if a proper amount of the funds for the package are included in the military's regular annual budget.
If the administration "doesn't create further trouble, " the Legislative Yuan could pass the arms procurement package in the next session, he further said.
KMT Chairman-elect Ma Ying-jeou said that he will not oppose the arms procurement package simply because it is listed under a special budget.
Ma, who recently received a letter from the Taiwan Caucus -- a pro-Taiwan group in the U.S. House of Representatives -- urging him to work for early passage of the arms procurement package, said that the KMT could agree to some items in the package being financed with a special budget.
Ma said he gives his "conditional support" for the arms procurement package, adding that a due amount of spending on national defense is necessary and that his party should review the issue in a rational way.
However, Sun Ta-chien, a whip of the PFP caucus in the Legislative Yuan, said that special budgets should not become common practice, especially at a time when the government's financial situation is worsening. Sun also said that lawmakers have to consider the "urgency, necessity and price tag" of each item of the arms procurement separately.
Meanwhile, PFP Legislator Lin Yu-fang said that whether to finance the arms procurement package with a special budget or in the regular annual budget is beside the point, stressing that what matters is that the KMT and the PFP make a prior assessment of defense needs, costs, and industrial cooperation deals as well as possible cross-strait tension triggered by the arms procurement.
Lin said he will soon call on KMT Chairman-elect Ma to discuss the arms procurement issues with him.
(By Lilian Wu)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|