President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday renewed calls for the procurement of F-16C/D aircraft from the US to increase defense capabilities and promised to enhance national security by institutionalizing cross-strait relations.
In a teleconference with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, Ma pledged to build a small but strong military force, urging the US to provide the nation with the necessary weaponry, while promising to be a responsible stakeholder in the region.
“For cross-strait relations to continue advancing, the US must help Taiwan level the playing field. Negotiation with a giant like [the] Chinese mainland is not without its risks. The right leverage must be in place, otherwise Taiwan cannot credibly maintain an equal footing at the negotiation table,” Ma said while addressing the teleconference from the Presidential Office.
Ma defended his administration’s efforts in pushing for peaceful cross-strait relations with the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), but declined to give a timetable on political negotiations when asked to comment on the possibility of political talks between Taiwan and China.
“Issues like sovereignty and confidence-building measures are important, but not included in our agenda. We have no timetables for [political negotiations] because our hands are full with other issues,” he said.
The teleconference, presided over by CSIS president and chief executive John Hamre, attracted about 150 experts, academics and local media. US government officials also attended, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to confirm the names of those officials.
Ma acknowledged that cross-strait relations and questions over sovereignty would remain top challenges for him during the presidential election next year, but promised to continue negotiations on the ECFA to cover more issues, including an investment protection agreement and dispute settlement, while working to mend the political divide in Taiwan by enhancing communication with the public.
He also mentioned recent controversies surrounding the WHO’s referring to Taiwan as a province of China in a confidential memo, but insisted that mutual trust between Taiwan and China could be achieved through more negotiations.
In an 18-minute address, the president promised to build a national security network, enhance the military force and diplomacy and improve cross-strait relations, while also promoting relations with the US and Japan.
He also said Taiwan would adhere to the principle of no unification, no independence and no use of force in promoting relations with China, and called for the US to help maintain Taiwan’s ability to defend itself as stipulated under the Taiwan Relations Act.
He also emphasized the importance of the Republic of China Constitution as the political foundation of the nation and promised to follow the Constitution in developing the nation’s defense ability and cross-strait relations.