American Institute in Taiwan Director Stephen Young Thursday called on ruling and opposition lawmakers to set aside their partisan rows and pass the budget to acquire the arms package offered by the Bush administration without delay.
Young, who recently returned from a trip back to Washington, said the budgetary holdup has prompted many US officials to doubt Taiwan's determination to defend itself against rival China.
"I found the question difficult to answer," the de facto US ambassador told a news conference at noon.“Six years have passed since the Bush administration offered the package in April 2001.”
The US has offered to sell Taiwan six PAC III anti-missile systems, eight diesel-fueled submarines and 12 P-3C Orion anti-submarines aircraft, but the Democratic Progressive Party government did not introduce the procurement program until June 2004.
Young said he believed all parties in Taiwan are responsible for the stalemate though some have attributed the delay to the bundling of the defense budget with the Central Election Commission makeup bill on the part of opposition lawmakers.
The National Defense Committee gave its go-ahead last November to the proposed NT$6.1 billion and NT$3.5 billion in annual budget for this year to buy submarine-hunting aircraft and upgrade PAC II missile systems, respectively.
The committee also approved a NT$200 million fund to assess the need of the submarines. But the 2007 budget plan failed to clear the Legislature before the end of the fall session.
It remains unclear when the lawmaking body will take up the budget and other major issues, as most legislators are preoccupied with efforts to win re-election in December.