President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday defended National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) against widespread criticism that he overreached his authority with recent inspection visits of intelligence agencies.
“How could he [King] be my chief of staff [if he had not visited the agencies]? I would have thought that he had failed in his duty had he not done so,” Ma told a press conference in El Salvador, the last stop of his trip to Central America.
Ma was asked by a reporter to comment on the controversies surrounding King’s visit to security agencies, including the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau; the National Police Agency and National Immigration Agency of the Ministry of the Interior; the National Security Bureau; and the Military Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense, where he was given briefings by officials.
King’s visits have been widely criticized by lawmakers across party lines, who said that the NSC has no authority over the intelligence agencies.
King was again dubbed the “underground president” by some lawmakers.
Ma said that King’s visits were allowed under the Organic Act of the National Security Council (國安會組織法) and the Organic Act of the National Security Bureau (國安局組織法), without elaborating.
Ma said King’s visit to the agencies enabled him to get a better understanding of issues beyond the fields of diplomacy, cross-strait relations and national defense, because the scope of his duties extends to major national issues.
Ma said he prefers King to give him advice based on first-hand information, rather than from second or third-hand sources, although he denied that King arranged the inspection trips to the intelligences agencies on his orders.
Asked to comment on the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to South Korea to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, which some said would advance the negotiations between the two countries on a bilateral free-trade agreement, Ma said he was “burning” to have the stalled cross-strait service trade agreement pass the legislature.
He accused the opposition and students in the Sunflower movement, which opposes the trade pact, of blocking its passage by using the lack of an oversight mechanism as an excuse.
The biggest problem with those opposed to the agreement is that they fail to see China as a member of the WTO, like any other WTO member, which Taiwan should engage with economically in a calm and rational manner, Ma said.
“I never try to make mainland China out as an angel, but it is not necessary that we demonize it. If we always demonize it, there will be consequences we have to suffer,” he said.
In response to concerns voiced by former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton that Taiwan has become overly dependent on China economically, Ma said that the highest degree of Taiwan’s economic reliance on China occurred before he took office in 2008.
China and Hong Kong accounted for more than 40 percent of Taiwan’s exports in 2008 under the Democratic Progressive Party government, up from 24 percent in 2000, while the share decreased to 39 percent last year after six years of his administration’s efforts to tap markets in ASEAN and Muslim countries, he said.