Thousands of Taiwanese protested Saturday against government plans to purchase $18 billion worth of U.S. military equipment. The proposed purchase needs final approval by parliament. The target of the Democratic Action Alliance and the Anti-Arms Purchasing Alliance on Saturday was a special budget of $18 billion to buy U.S. weaponry.
Taiwan's shopping list includes submarines, Patriot III missiles and other expensive military hardware. The protesters say Taipei is spending too much.
The marchers walked from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial to the presidential office in the Taiwan capital, carrying papier-mache models of submarines and planes with price tags, a sign of how they think Taiwan is being overcharged by Washington. The government says improved military hardware is necessary to protect the island from military threats by the mainland.
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has often threatened to use military force to prevent any move by Taiwan toward independence.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, stepping down a week ago as head of China's military commission, exhorted the army to maintain military pressure on Taiwan.
Hwang Kwang-kuo, a professor of social psychology at National Taiwan University, is a founder of the Democratic Action Alliance. Mr. Hwang said there is no reason to expect an attack by China, unless Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party provokes it.
"You know, China says there is only one condition he will attack Taiwan. That is the situation where Taiwan declares independence and I do not think the DPP dare to declare independence," he said.
Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun said Saturday that Taiwan could save as much as three-billion-dollars on the weapons purchase through a combination of reduced prices and the elimination of some items.
But Mr. Yu says the deal is critical to Taiwan's security, because it will help the island maintain a strong deterrent against attack. Threats like Jiang Zemin's, he says, make it necessary for Taiwan to maintain what he called a "Cold War Balance of Terror" with Beijing.