Wed, Mar 07, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Responses will be ‘more flexible’

FACING CHINA:Asked how Taiwan would respond to a dramatic increase in Beijing’s military budget, Lai said that budgets alone do not determine the outcome of wars

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Premier William Lai, left, and Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Lin Cheng-yi answer lawmakers’ questions at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The government is to formulate more flexible responses to China’s divide-and-conquer tactics and its attempts at weakening Taiwan’s self-determination, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday.

Lai made the remark during a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei in response to a question by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉) on how the Executive Yuan would respond to Beijing’s increasingly aggressive Taiwan policy, such as its unilateral launch of the northbound M503 flight route, the announcement of 31 incentives for Taiwanese working or studying in China and the reportedly planned merger of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) with its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office — which the Cabinet has called an attempt to belittle Taiwan.

The government’s responses to China’s moves to subordinate Taiwan have been limited to “slogan-chanting condemnation” without effective countermeasures, Chiu said.

The government should adopt moderate and proactive countermeasures, such as moving the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Department from the Mainland Affairs Council — the TAO’s Taiwanese counterpart — to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or merging the council with the ministry, he said.

Apart from appointing Vice Premier Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉) to head an interdepartmental task force to formulate countermeasures for the 31 incentives, the public should understand that whatever Taiwan policy Beijing introduces, its ultimate goal is to annex Taiwan, Lai said.

The government would diversify its responses to China’s attempts to influence the nation to make them more flexible, he said.

Asked by Chiu how the nation would respond to China’s dramatic 8.1 percent annual increase in its military budget — which is now 16 times that of Taiwan’s annual defense budget of between NT$320 billion and NT$330 billion (US$10.9 billion and US$11.3 billion) — Lai echoed Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發), who has said that the nation’s strategy in the event of China launching an armed assault on Taiwan is predicated on “defense and multilayered deterrent” and “asymmetric warfare.”

“If the outcome of a war is determined by which side has the larger defense budget, history would have to be rewritten,” the premier said.

The nation is to join forces with the international community to form a collaborative regional defense system, while gradually increasing its defense budget, he said.

Asked by Chiu whether the defense budget could reach the government’s goal of 3 percent of the nation’s GDP next year, Lai said that an increase to the budget would depend on the nation’s arms procurement plans.

The government’s special budget could also be tapped to cover potential insufficiencies in the defense budget, Lai said.

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