Taiwan will not count on a free ride from Washington for its security, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) told China experts in Washington during a video conference last night.
“US arms sales is equally, if not more, central to our relations, in which I want to reassure America that Taiwan will not free-ride on the United States for its own security,” Ma said.
Starting this year, Ma said the country’s defense budget would reach 3 percent of GDP. As the delicate balance of the “status quo” had been shaken up by the “gross military imbalances” across the Taiwan Strait, Ma urged Washington not to hesitate to provide Taiwan with the necessary defensive arms as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
Ma addressed via video conference from Taiwan a seminar in Washington on the role of the TRA in Taipei-Beijing-Washington ties 30 years after its enactment.
Ma was invited to deliver a keynote speech and closing remarks as well as field questions. It was the first time Ma held a video conference with a foreign institution since he took office last May. The organizer, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, invited experts on China affairs to take part in panel discussion at the seminar, titled “US-Taiwan Relations in a New Era: Looking Forward 30 Years After the Taiwan Relations Act.”
Ma was introduced by former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. Other experts attending the event included Bonnie Glaser, Douglas Paal, Alan Romberg, Randy Schriver and Kerry Dumbaugh.
During a question-and-answer session, Ma said the policies of his administration were founded “on the principles of pragmatism, accountability and trust” and put equal stress on keeping a good relationship with the US as well as further developing closer ties with China.
“There is a long relationship between the Republic of China and the US, and after 1949, a great part of Taiwan’s success was also because of US support,” he said, adding that US plays an important role for “all the Chinese.”
Improved cross-strait relations not only bring prosperity to Taiwan, but also benefit all Chinese, he said.
“My administration will continue to engage mainland China for the prosperity of our country and for better improvement for the Chinese community,” Ma said. “I’m confident that my administration is paving the way for the future.”
When asked about the six-point remarks made by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Ma said his administration has positively responded to Hu’s call to establish a “comprehensive economic cooperation agreement” and proposed to sign an “economic cooperation framework agreement” with Beijing.
Regarding Hu’s call to build a military confidence-building mechanism, Ma said the issue was rather “difficult” and “sensitive” and his administration is overwhelmed by the global economic crisis and has prioritized economic issues over “more sensitive” ones.
Ma also expressed the hope that Taiwan would be able to sign an extradition agreement and a free trade agreement with Washington as well as participate in the US visa-waiver program (VWP).
Additional reporting by Loa Iok-sin