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Taiwan expects progress in U.S. arms procurement in September

ROC Central News Agency

New York, Aug. 1 (CNA) Taiwan hopes the United States will make progress in pushing through its arms procurement requests in September, following the conclusion of the Beijing Olympic Games later this month, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng said in the United States Friday.

Wang made the remarks prior to his departure from New York for Taipei after wrapping up his nine-day U.S. visit that also took him to Washington, D.C.

Wang said he had good discussions with U.S. officials on the arms issue and that the process should have helped resolve U.S. doubts about Taiwan's determination to acquire the weapon systems.

Wang said the U.S. side repeatedly reassured him that the administration of President George W. Bush has not frozen arms sales to Taiwan and will definitely comply with related provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act in handling the matter.

According to the speaker, if the items are to be passed before the U.S. Congress adjourns on Sept. 16, the Bush administration would need to submit notifications for the weapon systems to Congress for review by Aug. 16, midway through the Beijing Olympics, which end Aug. 24.

"We hope there will an outcome in September," he said.

Wang said he does not think China will try to pressure the United States into scrapping the deals during Bush's upcoming China visit to attend the Aug. 8 Olympic opening ceremony, because they are requests that have been under discussion for a long time.

There have been reports that the Bush administration is holding back on the congressional notifications so as not to upset relations with China ahead of the Olympic Games.

Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, fueled speculation last month that Washington might indeed have frozen the screening process when he talked about defense ties with Taiwan.

He said policy-makers in the administration have "reconciled Taiwan's military posture, China's current military posture and strategy that indicates there is no pressing, compelling need for, at the moment, arms sales to Taiwan."

The list of military hardware reportedly being held up include anti-tank missiles, Apache helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, diesel-powered submarines, P3C anti-submarine aircraft and sea-launched Harpoon missiles.

However, in response to Keating's remarks, the U.S. Department of State reiterated that Washington has not changed its policy on arms sales to Taiwan.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said July 18 that the administration "faithfully implements the Taiwan Relations Act" and that there is an "internal interagency process" for the U.S. government to consider all military exports, including sales to Taiwan.

"When the interagency process achieves a final decision for specific arms sales, we will notify Congress," he said.

Concerned about the administration's delays in screening the pending weapon sales to Taiwan, a group of 23 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a joint letter to Bush July 31 urging his administration to expedite consideration of the sales.

Also, the group of congressmen, led by Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) , co-chairs of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, requested that the administration brief Congress on the status of sales.

The move came one month after a group of 14 senators sent a similar letter to Bush June 30. (By Hwang Jaw-pyng and Y.F. Low) ENDITEM/ls 

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