Despite the thaw in cross-strait relations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said the armed forces must stay alert and strong.
Describing China as a “very peculiar and complicated factor,” Ma said it posed both threats and opportunities. Minimizing the threat and maximizing the opportunity required skill and art, Ma said.
“Taiwan has no choice but to do so because it is the only way to pursue Taiwan’s best interest,” he said. “The armed forces must not let their guard down. We are not afraid of a war, but we aren’t looking for one. We hope to prevent war, but we do not hesitate to fight [if attacked].”
To that end, the country must strengthen its defense capabilities and maintain a strong military, he said while attending a medal decoration and promotion ceremony for high-ranking military officials at the Presidential Office yesterday morning.
Ma said the purpose of national security was to strive for peace, not for war. The government’s defense policy is to consolidate national security and its cross-strait policy aims to maintain safety in the Taiwan Strait and advance regional peace, he said.
Compared with the Korean Peninsula, which is plagued by the issue of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Ma said the Taiwan Strait was relatively stable and he was certain the nation’s allies were happy to see the cross-strait detente.
Ma said his government would take a Taiwan-centric approach and act in the best interest of the public. He said he hoped both sides of the strait would put aside their differences to create a win-win situation.
A strong army has helped protect Taiwan, Kinmen and Matsu over the years, Ma said.
He said he would push to realize his campaign promise to replace the conscription system with a professional military, which he said would promote structural efficiency and cultivate quality soldiers.
Ma yesterday decorated former chief of the general staff Hou Shou-yeh (霍守業) with the Order of Blue Sky and White Sun with Grand Cordon. Hou has been appointed as one of Ma’s military strategy advisers.
While some media questioned Hou’s qualifications for the honor, Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said Hou deserved the award because of his outstanding contribution.
Wang said Hou had been recommended for the honor by the Ministry of Defense. Since the medal was introduced in 1929, it has been awarded to more than 200 people, including dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and late general Ho Ying-chin (何應欽).
At a separate setting last night, Ma said Taiwan’s recent diplomatic achievements showed that the government’s policy of modus vivendi was the way to end the nation’s diplomatic woes.
“Over the past eight months, my administration has on many occasions made the impossible possible, especially in regards to cross-strait relations, national defense and foreign relations,” Ma said, citing the US’ approval in October of a US$6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan and a visit in November by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).
Ma said Taiwan’s accession to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement and its inclusion in the WHO’s International Health Regulations proved “that indeed we can safeguard this country’s sovereignty and dignity while seeking rapprochement with mainland China.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU
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