Thu, Mar 21, 2019 - Page 3 News List

The economy, defense are key, Ko says during US trip

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, who is visiting Washington, poses yesterday with the White House in the background.

Photo from Ko Wen-je’s Facebook timeline

The economy and national defense are still the most important areas for Taiwan, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.

Ko made the remark when responding to questions by Taiwanese reporters in Washington, after meeting with US Department of State officials.

He was asked to comment on former premier William Lai (賴清德) — who called himself a “practical Taiwanese independence worker” in 2017 — and whether Lai’s decision to seek the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) nomination for next year’s presidential election would affect his willingness to run for president.

Without giving a direct response, Ko sighed and said: “Taiwan still has to deal with its own problems, so my attitude remains the same — the economy and national defense are still the most important areas for Taiwan.”

“Poor economic development leads to having no money to properly deal with national defense,” he said.

Economic distress also results in a poor quality of life for the public, so there would be no extra money to support national defense, the mayor added.

Asked what he had discussed in a meeting at the US National Security Council earlier in the day, he laughed and said that he would not answer the question.

“However, the US is still Taiwan’s most important friend, and this is the most important thing,” he added.

Over the course of the day, Ko said that he told US officials that “democracy and freedom are core Taiwanese values,” and that “we share the same values.”

Asked whether he thinks US President Donald Trump might sell Taiwan out, Ko said: “There are many views in the US, so do not worry because the US is a mature democratic country.”

Last year, Ko said that Taiwan was “merely a commodity on a shelf for Trump.”

Ko also answered reporters’ questions after meeting with former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Richard Bush and Center For Strategic and International Studies senior adviser for Asia Bonnie Glaser at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday morning.

Ko said he explained that his controversial the “two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” remark was “only a friendly expression, not to irritate China,” and that the “economy and national defense are still the most important areas for Taiwan.”

“We had a lively discussion. I think the communication was very good. We’re very grateful for Mayor Ko to spend so much time with us,” Bush said.

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