Taiwan president urges US to speed up arms sales to counter China

Other News Materials 11 August 2008 11:06 (UTC +04:00)

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday urged the United States to speed up arms sales to Taiwan despite improved Taipei-Beijing ties, dpa reported.

"Taiwan and China's improving ties do not affect Taiwan's arms purchase from the US. Taiwan made the request last year, and hopes the US can proceed according to legislative procedure," he said while receiving a US Congress delegation.

Ma said Taiwan needs to show its determination to defend itself. Therefore, Taiwan will keep its defence budget no lower than 3 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Taiwan's current defence budget is about 2.8 per cent of its GDP.

President George W Bush in 2004 approved an arms sales package to Taiwan which includes 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft, six batteries of PAT-3 anti-missile systems and eight diesel-electric submarines.

Taiwan passed the budget for most of the purchase in late 2007, but the US has been delaying the arms sale, reportedly due to improved Taipei-Beijing ties since Ma took office on May 20.

But after parliament speaker Wang Jin-pying visited the US recently to push the arms sale, Bush is expected to approve the deal after the Beijing Olympics, Taiwan press reports said.

During his meeting with the US Congress delegation, Ma also expressed the hope that Taiwan and the US should sign a free trade agreement (FTA).

"Like two normal nations, our two sides are actively seeking solutions for issues of mutual interest," he noted, in an apparent reference to the unofficial ties between Taiwan and the US.

Taiwan has been seeking to sign FTAs with the US, Japan, Singapore and South Korea for several years, but these countries have refused, for fear of hurting their diplomatic ties with China.

China sees Taiwan as its breakaway province and bars its diplomatic allies from forming official ties with Taiwan, like signing official documents with Taiwan or receiving Taiwan leaders.