Taiwan president urges U.S. to sell weapons to Taiwan

Saturday, April 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ President Chen Shui-bian on Saturday urged Washington to sell his country high-tech weapons, saying advanced arms can help the island maintain a crucial military balance with rival China.

Chen made the remarks to members of a U.S. Congressional delegation who arrived in Taipei earlier Saturday after canceling a scheduled visit to China amid the standoff over the in-flight collision of a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter.

``Security in the Taiwan Strait not only protects Taiwan's interests but also the interests of the United States,'' Chen said.

With its aggressive arms buildup, China could gain air and sea superiority over Taiwan by 2005, Chen said.

Taiwan does not plan to engage in an arms race, but the advanced weapons can enhance Taiwanese confidence in the event of possible political talks with China, he said.

``Weapons sales are not just a military matter. They can help safeguard Taiwan's democracy and might even help foster its dialogue'' with China, Chen told the delegation.

Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949, and China claims Taiwan is part of its own territory to be reunified with the mainland eventually.

Also on Saturday, Defense Minister Wu Shih-wen said Taiwan's navy commander in chief, Adm. Lee Chieh, is currently in the United States on a ``routine visit.''

Taiwanese military chiefs regularly visit the United States, and Lee's visit is not linked to the upcoming annual arms talks with Washington, Wu told the state radio.

The U.S. delegation includes Republican Senators Phil Gramm of Texas, Bob Bennett of Utah, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Mike Crapo of Idaho. They are members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.