by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Jan 27, 2013
A US congressional group paid a rare visit to a Taiwan naval base Sunday, a military source said, raising speculation about efforts to revive a US deal to provide the island with eight submarines.
The delegation, led by Edward Royce who is chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, arrived Saturday as part of a visit to East Asia, according to the de facto US embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan.
"While in Taiwan, the delegation will meet with senior leaders to discuss US-Taiwan relations, trade and other significant issues," it said in a statement.
The delegation visited the Tsoying naval base in the south for a briefing and boarded a warship Sunday before meeting Kaohsiung city mayor Chen Chu, the military source told AFP, without providing details.
The United States remains the leading arms supplier to Taiwan despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
In April 2001 then-President George W. Bush approved the sale of eight conventional submarines as part of Washington's most comprehensive arms package for the island since 1992.
Since then, however, there has been little progress in filling the order.
The United States has not built conventional submarines for more than 40 years and Germany and Spain reportedly declined to offer their designs for fear of offending China.
"The military will voice its desire to obtain the submarines while briefing the US congressional delegation, given Taiwan's pressing need," the Liberty Times quoted an unidentified officer as saying.
The Taiwanese navy currently has four submarines, but only two of them -- Dutch-built -- could be deployed in the event of war. The other two were built by the United States in the 1940s.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have eased markedly since President Ma Ying-jeou came to power on a platform of strengthening trade links and allowing more Chinese tourists to visit. Ma was re-elected in January.
But Taiwan, which has governed itself since 1949, still sees the need to modernise its armed forces because China regards the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
Okinawa leaders stage anti-US military rally in Tokyo
Organisers said some 4,000 people marched through the glitzy Ginza shopping district holding banners reading "Firmly against Osprey", a tilt-rotor US military aircraft said by opponents to be prone to accidents.
The rally was among the biggest involving Okinawan mayors and politicians since the island chain was returned to Japan from US control in 1972, according to national broadcaster NHK.
Police declined to estimate the number of demonstrators.
Marchers protested that the rest of Japan discriminates against Okinawa by forcing it to host more than half of the 47,000 US military personnel in Japan.
Okinawan residents have long opposed the heavy US military presence due to accidents and crimes committed by American soldiers.
"Our anger has been boiled to its peak," Takeshi Onaga, mayor of Naha city which is the prefectural capital, told the rally.
Okinawan leaders hope to meet government ministers Monday to press their case.
It was the latest of a series of protests and rallies held by Okinawan leaders and their supporters, as Tokyo attempts to expand its military alliance with Washington in the face of a more confident China.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also pledged to strengthen his own country's military as Tokyo and Beijing intensify disputes over islands in East China Sea.
Taiwan News at SinoDaily.com
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