Wed, Sep 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Stand up for yourselves, Lawless tells Taiwanese

BY JEWEL HUANG  /  STAFF REPORTER

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Richard Lawless yesterday issued a blunt statement on Taiwan's blocked arms-procurement bill, implying that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the People First Party were threatening Taiwan's security and urging Taiwanese to have the determination to defend themselves and hold lawmakers to account.

The comments, delivered in a speech by Defense Security Cooperation Agency Director Edward Ross, which sources said relayed Lawless' original speech, were an appeal to the Taiwanese public and included some of the strongest criticisms of the pan-blue camp by a senior Bush administration official.

The comments were in a keynote speech at a US-Taiwan Business Council defense industry conference in San Diego, California.

Lawless was unable to personally deliver the speech on Monday as he was in Beijing for talks on the North Korean nuclear program.

After acknowledging President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) for their attempts to facilitate passage of the arms package, the speech noted that nothing has happened in five years, despite the package being approved in April 2001 at the beginning of the Bush administration.

The special budget has become a "political football," Ross said.

"In fact, a neutral observer could draw the conclusion that this battered ball has been kept in play more to entertain the players -- the politicians -- than to serve the real needs of Taiwan," he said.

The speech then urged the people of Taiwan to understand that national security is not simply a political platform and that no specific defense issue should become a football for partisan purposes.

"Rather, national security is a political responsibility and the people of Taiwan should hold elected officials accountable for what they are doing, or more correctly, not doing," he said.

The speech argued that Taiwan could take several steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its defense posture "without breaking the bank."

"Taiwan is particularly vulnerable because it is an island in close proximity to a threat, possesses limited resources and relies heavily on advanced technology to meet its defense needs," he said. "For these reasons alone, it is important Taiwan minimizes its vulnerabilities and maximizes its strength."

He said that under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the US is "obligated to `enable' Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense."

"[B]ut the reality is, it is Taiwan that is obligated to have a sufficient self-defense," he added.

Taiwan has to "fulfill its unwritten, but clearly evident obligations under the [TRA] by appropriately providing for its own defense while not simply relying on the US' capacity to address a threat in the Strait," he added.

He also stressed that "the people of Taiwan and their elected officials [must] understand that when it comes to defense, they ... are in the first instance accountable," and not the US or anyone else.

"We cannot help defend you, if you cannot defend yourself," the speech concluded. "We encourage our Taiwan friends both Blues and Greens, and more importantly I urge the people of Taiwan to think very hard about the future of Taiwan -- how should it look, how should it feel, and what is it worth?"

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