September 22, 2004

Can drinking less tea defend a nation?

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan people should drink less tea and use the money saved to help pay the United States for a big weapons package that will protect the island from arch-foe China, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.
Faced with criticism that an $18 billion arms offer from Washington is too expensive, the ministry is issuing pamphlets to rally support for the special budget, which has to be approved by lawmakers.
“A cup of pearl milk tea for national security,” the ministry said in a colorful cartoon, which pictured a boy holding a giant plastic cup of tea next to photographs of a submarine, Patriot anti-missiles and submarine-hunting aircraft.
“We can buy top-notch equipment to protect our country (if) everyone drinks one less pearl milk tea every week,” it said.
Pearl milk tea, also known as “bubble tea” is a popular drink containing small white balls of glutinous sago.
Opposition parties have vowed to block the budget, saying the money should be spent on education and welfare. The military says the weapons are vital to counter a build-up by China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province to be brought back to the fold, by force if necessary.
“It’s very sad that we have to use the milk tea analogy to seek support for the arms purchase,” Defense Minister Lee Jye told parliament. “But we hope to use the simplest terms to tell people the arms budget is not too big.”

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