TAIWAN KEEPS MUM OVER US ARM SALES
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TAIWAN KEEPS MUM OVER US ARM SALES

Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Taipei kept mum on Friday over reports that Washington is inclined to reject Taiwan's offer to buy four US warships.

Chen Ming-cheng, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Taiwan welcomes any move which contributes to peace across the Taiwan Strait, but would rather reserve its comments on any possible US decision on arms sales.

Chen made the comment in response to wire service reports to the effect that Washington is inclined to turn down Taiwan's requests to buy four destroyers equipped with the Aegis defense system.

And in what local political analysts saw as an indication of Washington's refusal, US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott urged US President Bill Clinton on Thursday to give Taiwan ground- and sea-based early-warning radar equipment.

In a letter co-signed by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Lott prodded Clinton to take immediate action to provide Taiwan with equipment needed for its defense.

Local analysts saw Lott's letter as an effort to plug holes in Taiwan's defense network in the absence of the four Aegis destroyers.

Chen refused to say whether Washington has showed its hand to Taiwan regarding the arms sales.

Local reports have it that Clinton would not veto the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act if it passes the Senate, in light of the aggressive threats made by Beijing against Taiwan on Feb. 20.

Chen also brushed away questions about whether Taipei would step up lobbying for the passage of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which is meant to strengthen military ties between Taiwan and the United States.

The act was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives on Feb. 1, and the Senate vote is pending. (By Maubo Chang)