Taiwan's cabinet approves reduced 10-billion-dollar arms package
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Taiwan's cabinet approves reduced 10-billion-dollar arms package

AFP | August 31, 2005

Taiwan's cabinet Wednesday approved a revised bill that proposes spending 10 billion US dollars on military hardware, after the opposition blocked two previous packages running to twice as much.

The new bill, to be submitted for approval in the opposition-controlled parliament next week, calls for the purchase of eight conventional submarines and a fleet of 12 submarine-hunting aircraft from the United States.

The package works out at around 340 billion Taiwan dollars (10 billion US) over a 15-year period. The defense ministry said it considered the chances of the bill being passed high now that the cost had been trimmed.

Six PAC-3 Patriot anti-missile systems included in the original proposal would now be financed by the government's annual defense spending.

"For national security considerations, we hope the opposition will approve the new bill as soon as possible," Premier Frank Hsieh said during a cabinet meeting.

President Chen Shui-bian from the Democratic Progressive Party had accused the opposition of acting "irresponsibly" in blocking the arms package in the face of what Taipei perceives as a growing military threat from China.

China has deployed up to 730 ballistic missiles opposite the island, which is separated by a narrow strait of water and 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 over 610 billion Taiwan dollars (19 billion US) when it was first introduced in June last year.

The committee again blocked an amended version of the bill, with spending reduced to 480 billion dollars, 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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