Taiwan opposition leader to visit US
Updated: 2006-03-06 09:01
Taiwan's opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou is to visit the United States, a
spokesperson said, amid rows with Washington over the island's slow progress
towards a big arms deal and growing tension across the Taiwan Straits.
Taipei Mayor Ma will depart March 16
on his first US visit since he was elected chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) last
year, party spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen said.
leader Ma Ying-jeou smiles during a press conference in Taipei, December
"Hopefully the trip will help step up understanding with the United States,"
she said, declining to provide details.
Local newspapers have said the KMT, which with its allies controls
"parliament", is likely finally partially to approve a controversial US$10
billion arms deal with the United States.
Washington has reportedly warned that its ties with Taipei may be damaged
should the party continue to block the arms deal.
Taiwan's ruling party initially sought approval for a US$19 billion arms
package to be purchased over 15 years, but has since scaled back the amount.
The latest version of the arms bill calls for the purchase of eight
conventional submarines, 12 P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft and six PAC-3
Patriot anti-missile systems from the United States.
Analysts said however that since the opposition lawmakers remain doubtful
about the price tag for the submarines, their fate is still unclear.
The opposition has strongly opposed the Patriot purchase, saying Taiwanese
voted against expanded arms purchases in a referendum in March 2004.
Ma plans to meet New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on March 19 before
delivering a speech to his alma mater Harvard University, the United Daily News
Rising tension across the Taiwan Straits, sparked by the Taiwan authorities'
scrapping of an advisory council on unification with the Chinese mainland, is
also expected to be discussed when Ma addresses think-tanks in Washington and
Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian, a long-time advocate of independence, defied
pressure from Beijing and Washington last month to formally close down the
advisory council and scrap accompanying guidelines on reunification.
The move infuriated Beijing, which accused the Taiwanese leader of pushing
the region towards disaster.
President Hu Jintao last Tuesday called Chen's decision "a dangerous step
forward towards Taiwan independence."
Hu warned that "anyone who moves against the trend of history is doomed to
Premier Wen Jiabao echoed Hu's remarks Sunday in his work report to the
National People's Congress.
He said that anybody who acts against people's wishes for peaceful and stable
relations across the Taiwan Straits is bound to meet failure.