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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


ROC Central News Agency

2005-08-24 22:00:41

    Taipei, Aug. 24 (CNA) Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng said Wednesday he thinks that now is the time for lawmakers to start screening a long-stalled U.S. weapons procurement package.

    Wang, an opposition Kuomintang (KMT) heavyweight, made the remarks after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration decided earlier in the day to withdraw the special arms procurement statute and come up with a revised one for legislative approval. "It's a goodwill response to opposition parties' demands, " Wang said, adding that the move may make it easier to get the opposition-controlled legislature to begin a rational debate on the long-delayed package.

    For more than a year, the KMT and its "pan-blue alliance" ally -- the People First Party (PFP) -- have used their slim majority in the legislature to hold up the special NT$480 billion arms procurement bill, saying that the purchase would spark an arms race with rival China that could bankrupt Taiwan.

    Included in the package are eight diesel-electric submarines, a squadron of 12 anti-submarine aircraft and six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries.

    At its weekly meeting Wednesday, the Cabinet approved a new proposal to finance the arms package, divided between a modified special budget, and the regular defense allocation.

    Cabinet spokesman Cho Jung-tai said the Ministry of Defense is still working on the details; however, he said the general direction was to move the Patriot missile allocation of more than NT$100 billion from the special budget to the regular defense budget.

    Both come from state coffers, but the regular defense budget carries more rigorous oversight provisions, suggesting the DPP administration believes that the new transparency will convince the opposition to drop its long-standing objections to the package. "The defense ministry will present a new proposal which will promote harmony between the government and the opposition, " Cho quoted Premier Frank Hsieh as saying at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.

    Wang said he is pleased to see the DPP administration finally responding to the opposition camp's call for changing the way the arms package will be funded. Nevertheless, Wang said he is not sure whether the Cabinet's revised funding proposal can receive majority support in the legislature, which will open its new session in mid-September.

    Responding to the DPP administration's new funding proposal, both KMT and PFP legislative caucuses said they agreed to let the legislative defense committee begin substantive screening of the arms package during the next legislative session.

    Nevertheless, they stressed that they would not necessarily accept all of the DPP-proposed terms.

    PFP Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who is a co-convener of the legislative defense committee, said the Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries are still undergoing modifications. "Is it too much for Taiwan to purchase six sets at one time? Moreover, the United States is now developing a high-altitude intercept system. Is it wise for us to purchase Patriot missiles? As far as arms procurement is concerned, we must also consider our financial structure and whether the United States will offer technological transfers and make reciprocal purchases from Taiwan, " Lin said.

(By sofia Wu)



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