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U.S. respects Taiwan's decision on arms purchase list, says envoy

U.S. respects Taiwan's decision on arms purchase list, says envoy
Washington fully respects whatever decision Taiwan makes on a major arms procurement package from the United States, including opting out of buying certain items in the package, Taiwan's top representative to the United States, said Friday.

Dismissing a report by Taiwan media that the United States has asked Taiwan to put forth a new list naming which items that it plans to buy, Lee told a news conference at the Twin Oaks estate that Washington has never required Taiwan to do so.

Basically, Taiwan is free to purchase items that have been approved by the United States and without limits in amounts, Lee said, pointing out that Washington is also willing to "adjust, " if Taiwan is not interested in acquiring certain items. However, Washington has not specified how it would adjust in this regard, he added.

Despite the fact that many think tanks in Washington with close links to the U.S. government have aired their viewpoints which may reflect the opinions of some U.S. officials, the Republic of China government has the final say in the whole matter, he said.

The Pentagon has never hinted or explicitly asked Taiwan to buy or not to buy submarines, he said, pointing out that the United States remains committed to selling Taiwan the eight diesel-electric submarines, six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries and 12 P-3C anti-submarine airplanes as agreed in 2001.

Although the stance of the opposition "pan blue alliance" of the Kuomintang, the People First Party and the New Party is different from that of the "pan green camp" of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the Taiwan Solidarity Union on how the arms procurement should be financed, Lee said he believes that the gap can be bridged as long as the two sides are able to patch up their differences.

The arms procurement bill has been blocked over 40 times by "pan blue alliance" lawmakers from being placed on the Legislative Yuan's agenda since it was introduced late last year.

As part of the government's efforts to have the bill clear the Legislature, the Ministry of National Defense has slashed the budget for the major arms purchase package to NT$299 billion from the previous NT$610.8 billion. It has also agreed to finance the six Patriot PAC III anti-missile batteries through the ministry's regular annual budget instead of a special budget.