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U.S. congressman supports Taiwan's RIMPAC bid, submarine plans

2014/08/07 20:53:07

Howard Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (left)

Taipei, Aug. 7 (CNA) The chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee said Thursday in Taipei that he supports Taiwan efforts to participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC) and to obtain a transfer of U.S. technology to build its own submarines.

"We have some influence and we will push to see that they (Taiwan's armed forces) are invited next time" to take part in RIMPAC, Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) told CNA in an interview just before he and his congressional delegation wrapped up a two-day visit to Taiwan.

He said Taiwan's participation in the U.S.-led RIMPAC, the world's largest international maritime warfare exercise, will help build a stronger relationship between Taiwan and the United States.

McKeon said the issue was raised during his meetings with Taiwan's Defense Minister Yen Ming and the National Security Council Secretary-General King Pu-tsung.

RIMPAC 2014, held June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around Hawaii, marked the first time that China participated.

McKeon, who arrived in Taiwan Wednesday as part of a trip to East Asia, also met with President Ma Ying-jeou Thursday.

During the meeting, Ma reiterated Taiwan's desire to have diesel-electric submarines to strengthen the country's defense capabilities.

Asked about the issue, McKeon said the U.S. House Armed Services Committee is "united in support of helping Taiwan, the people of Taiwan, with the things they need to defend themselves" and that most members of Congress would also be supportive.

During the delegation's short visit to Taiwan, the members met with Taiwanese government officials, including Foreign Minister David Lin and Navy officers, to discuss Taiwan's needs in terms of submarines, frigates and warplanes, among other matters, McKeon said.

The delegation supports Taiwan's needs, and wants "to go back to Washington and try to convince our colleagues to be supportive," he said.

On the issue of submarines, he said the U.S. needs to help provide the technology because Taiwan wants to build them itself.

McKeon is scheduled to go next to South Korea, then Japan before wrapping up his East Asia trip with a visit to Hawaii.

He said that in China, on the first leg of the tour, he did not get to meet leaders there because he insisted on visiting Taiwan even though China asked him not to. Several meetings in China were thus cancelled, he added.

"I think it was a mistake," McKeon said of China's response to his insistence on visiting Taiwan.

Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea are important places and it is important to visit them and talk to their leaders, he said.

In South Korea and Japan, the delegation will meet with leaders there, the congressman added.

(By Elaine Hou)