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U.S. arms package draws polarized responses from legislators

2011/09/22 17:43:36

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) The United States' approval of a US$5.85 billion weapons package to Taiwan, including a retrofitting of Taiwan's aging F-16 A/B fleet, has drawn polarized responses from Taiwan's ruling and opposition legislators on Thursday.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators called on the Taiwanese government to continue to vie for the more advanced F-16 C/D jet fighters from the United States to boost Taiwan's defense capabilities.

The F-16 A/B upgrade offer is a "consolation prize" for Taiwan, said Legislator Tsai Huang-liang, chief whip of the DPP's legislative caucus.

It is like putting a bandage on the F-16 A/B fleet and cannot meet Taiwan's air defense demands, said Tsai.

Furthermore, in a press conference held the same day, DPP spokesman Chen Chi-mai and spokeswoman Kang Yu-cheng criticized the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for singing praises about themselves and for "contradictory attitudes" before and after the announcement of the arms sales.

Kang questioned why Taiwan's Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang, who said before the arms package that the lack of F-16 C/D jets would affect Taiwan's combat capabilities, had changed his attitude and said he was "not disappointed" after the package was announced a day earlier.

Chen also attributed Taiwan's failure to obtain the F-16 C/D fleet to the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT) move to prevent the Legislative Yuan from passing the arms sales budget when the KMT was in opposition.

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang, however, commended the arms package as better than what the MND and what he had expected.

When some people think about the arms sales, they think "if there is no fish, shrimp would be good," said Lin. However, he called the arms pact not only a shrimp, but a "very big fish."

Lin said that the Barack Obama administration should be applauded for proceeding to sell Taiwan weapons even under strong diplomatic pressure from China.

This shows that the U.S. takes Taiwan's security and the military balance across the Taiwan Strait seriously, he said.

The Obama administration notified the U.S. Congress a day earlier of the arms sales to Taiwan.

(By Lu Hsin-hui, Justin Su, Lin Shen-hsu and Christie Chen)