ARMS PROCUREMENT AIMS TO BEEF UP DEFENSE, NOT ARMS RACE: PRESIDENT
ROC Central News Agency
Kinmen, Aug. 23 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday his administration's arms procurement plan is not meant as an arms race with China, but is primarily for beefing up Taiwan's defense capabilities in the face of China's ever growing military threat. "The proposed arms porcurement is not intended to engage in an arms race with China but to upgrade self-defense capabilities, therefore safeguarding our hard-won democracy and prosperity, " Chen said.
Chen made the remarks at a ceremony on the frontline island of Kinmen, which lies closer to China's Fujian Province than to Taiwan, to mark a battle against China 47 years ago.
The Battle of the Taiwan Strait began with China's shelling of Kinmen Aug. 23, 1958, in a failed attempt to pound Kinmen into submission. China lobbed 480,000 shells in a 44-day barrage, leaving Kinmen pockmarked with craters.
Chen expressed his tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in that battle, saying he admired their selfless patriotism.
Noting that the 1958 battle resulted from a combination of factors, including the Cold War mindset and the historical feud between Taiwan's then-ruling Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China, Chen said it is regrettable that Taiwan still faces China's threat even though the Cold War has ended. "The Cold War has ended after 47 years... but despite this, Taiwan people are still under threat of more than 700 ballistic missiles deployed by China against Taiwan," Chen said.
He took the occasion to defend his administration's hefty arms package, citing China's passage of an anti-secession law in March that codifies the use of non peaceful means against Taiwan if the island moves toward formal independence.
Chen also cited remarks in July by Chinese General Zhu Chenghu, who said China could use nuclear weapons to retaliate against the United States if Washington attacked China in any conflict over Taiwan. "Zhu's remarks further highlighted the potential crisis that could be sparked by China's fast arms buildup as it is tipping the cross-strait military balance toward China," Chen said.
Touching on the long-stalled arms procurement package, Chen said he looks forward to rational and pragmatic discussion with new opposition Kuomintang Chairman Ma Ying-jeou on the issue.
The package calls for the purchase of eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries and a squadron of 12 P-3C anti-submarine aircraft from the United States at a cost of NT$480 billion (US$15 billion).
Chen said the package has long been stuck in the Legislative Yuan due to the opposition parties' "irrational boycott."
Over the past five years, the KMT and its "pan-blue alliance" ally -- the People First Party -- have used their slim majority in the legislature to boycott the Chen administration's policy initiatives at almost every turn.
Chen said he earnestly hopes that Ma can demonstrate a different leadership style from that of his predecessor Lien Chan, who was never able to accept that he was defeated twice by Chen in presidential elections. "Hopefully, Ma will be willing to engage in candid exchanges of opinions and rational cooperation with the government based on the principles of safeguarding national interests and the well-being of the people," Chen said.
Now that the KMT has changed its leadership, Chen said, he is hopeful that the Ma-led KMT will demonstrate sincerity and efficiency in dealing with national security and livelihood-related bills and budgetary appropriations.
Chen was accompanied by Defense Minister Lee Jye, Chief of the General Staff Li Tien-yu and other senior government and military officials on the visit to Kinmen.
(By Sofia Wu)
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|