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Taiwan-U.S. contact on defense issues remains steady: official

ROC Central News Agency

2014/02/27 16:45:58

Taipei, Feb. 27 (CNA) Taiwan and the United States have been maintaining smooth communications on defense matters, a Taiwan's foreign ministry official said Thursday, in response to questions on a suggestion by a U.S. official that Taiwan increase its defense budget.

'The two sides have been communicating on issues related to Taiwan's security,' said Kelly Hsieh, director-general of the Department of North American Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a regular news briefing.

He was asked about a statement by David Shear, the nominee for U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, who said Feb. 25 that if his nomination was confirmed, he would urge Taiwan to increase its defense budget to 3 percent of its gross domestic product.

At the same time, the U.S. would continue to provide Taiwan with what it needs to maintain its self-defense and implement an asymmetric and innovative defense strategy to deter military threats from China, Shear said in his written to questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering his nomination.

Asked about the issue, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he noted that the Legislature has approved a defense budge of NT$311.1 billion (US$10.27 billion) for 2014, which is around 2.5 percent of Taiwan's gross domestic product.

Although the amount is below 3 percent of GDP, the Cabinet has agreed to allocate special funds to cover the costs of foreign arms procurements, if other countries decide to sell Taiwan weapons and military equipment, Luo said.

This shows the Taiwan government's determination to strengthen national defense, he said.

At Thursday's news conference, Hsieh also said the U.S. and Taiwan will maintain close communications on regional security issues, although the U.S. has not yet commented publicly on President Ma Ying-jeou's recent call for the establishment of an East China Sea code of conduct.

Ma on Wednesday suggested that multilateral negotiations be held to devise a code of conduct for the use of air space and waters in the East China Sea, amid efforts by China to assert territorial claims in the area.

(By Elaine Hou)

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