Taiwan's plan for a huge US arms purchase may finally win parliamentary approval after the military agreed to trim its cost by more than four billion dollars, officials said Wednesday.
The cabinet withdrew from parliament a bill calling for the purchase of 480 billion Taiwan dollars (15 billion US) worth of weaponry from the United States over a 15-year period, in what was seen as a concession to the opposition.
The defense ministry said it would submit a new version of the bill to cabinet next week before it goes to parliament.
Eight conventional submarines and a fleet of submarine-hunting P-3C aircraft would remain intact under the new bill, estimated at around 340 Taiwan dollars (10.63 billion US).
The six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems included in the original bill would be financed by the government's yearly budgets.
In a positive response parliament speaker Wang Jin-pyng from the leading opposition Kuomintang party said that "now the arms bill should be discussed by the Legislative Yuan."
Defense ministry spokesman Liou Chih-jein was optimistic about the outlook for the new bill. "A new light has shed on the arms package," he told AFP.
President Chen Shui-bian from the Democratic Progressive Party renewed his appeal to the opposition Tuesday, insisting the island badly needs more weaponry to defend itself.
He accused the opposition of acting "irresponsibly" in blocking the arms package in the face of a growing military threat from China.
China has deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles opposite the island which it regards as part of its territory, the Pentagon said in a report last month.
In December the legislature's procedure committee killed the original bill, which was priced at 610.8 billion Taiwan dollars (19.33 billion US) when it was first introduced in June last year. The committee again blocked the amended bill of 480 billion earlier this year.
Some opposition lawmakers said Taiwan could not afford the arms deals while others said the equipment would be delivered too slowly to enable Taiwan to catch up with China's military build-up.
Relations between China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, have worsened since independence-leaning Chen was elected president in 2000. He was re-elected last year.
China has vowed to attack Taiwan should the island declare formal independence.
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Taiwan Says It Needs More Weaponry To Defend Itself, Denies Arms Race
Taipei (AFP) Aug 23, 2005
Taiwan badly needs more weaponry to defend itself and a proposed 15 billion US dollar arms purchase is not aimed at starting an arms race with rival China, President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday.