Senior government officials said yesterday that Taiwan has no intention to provoke China in response to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's (李顯龍) comment that war could break out if Taiwan moves toward independence.
In his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, the new Singapore leader, who visited Taiwan from July 10 to 13 as deputy prime minister, described the cross-strait situation as "potentially the most dangerous problem" in the region.
Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said Taiwan always holds "good will and a practical attitude" in handling cross-strait relations. With its constitutional re-engineering project, Taiwan is avoiding provocative issues such as sovereignty and territorial changes, he added.
President Chen Shui-bian (
"In contrast, China continues expanding its military and lashes out with harsh words against Taiwan. [These actions] may cause cross-strait conflicts," Su said.
Su responded cautiously to Lee's remarks that "Singapore would not support Taiwan if the latter provoked a cross-strait conflict."
"Lee is very careful about what he says ... We need to check out what he actually said. The media might have missed some of his words," he said.
According to the Straits Times, Lee said: "If Taiwan goes for independence, Singapore will not recognize it. In fact, no Asian country will recognize it. Nor will European countries."
Su, who received Lee upon his arrival at Taiwan last month, said the Singapore leader showed himself a "sincere and practical" man by risking China's anger to travel to Taiwan.
Lee held several in-depth talks with Chen and met other leaders during his visit.
"The first-hand information he obtained here should be helpful for him to lead his nation," Su added.
As for Lee's criticism politicians in Taiwan are preoccupied with domestic politics and that the Taiwanese media generally has a parochial outlook, Su said he took these words as "advice from a good friend."
"Lee's remarks reflected his overall observations about Taiwan-ese society and political parties. If what he said is true, we should amend our mistakes. If not, we should encourage ourselves to do better," Su said.
The Taiwanese media spends too much coverage on domestic stories, such as suicides and fires, but cares little about international news, Su added.
"This is not right," he said. "We live in a global village. Lee's comments make good sense. We should seriously reflect on ourselves."
Calling Lee "a good friend of Taiwan," Su declined to say whether Lee, whose visit to Taiwan left Bei-jing fuming, sought to curry China's favor through his speech.
"Lee made these comments because of pressure from China. He has to say something to clarify his stance. Everybody knows he has to do so," Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (
No other country is more peace loving than Taiwan, the minister said. Taiwan does not have offensive weapons. Taiwan merely has defensive weapons and it will never take the initiative to provoke other countries, he added.
Chen said the degree of Singapore's democratization is different from that of Taiwan.
"In Taiwan we have multi-party politics. We do understand why Lee made such comments," he said.