The Presidential Office yesterday urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to stop making a fuss over a remark President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) made in a recent interview that Taiwan would “never” ask the US to fight for Taiwan in a war.
This came after former representative to the US Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said Ma’s comments during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that aired on Friday gave China the wrong impression and risked sidelining the US in cross-strait relations.
“He is saying that in the future it will be a walk in the park for China to invade Taiwan,” Wu said, who served in Washington under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.
“Using the word ‘never’ means we have completely ruled out the idea of asking the US for help and that they can stand aside. This is an extremely unfair comment to make to our most important friend,” Wu added.
Meanwhile, in a discussion on the DPP’s future China policy yesterday, DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) questioned whether Ma meant that the government has given up on Taiwan’s defense.
“Ma’s government has fallen into a ‘China only’ way of thinking,” Tsai said. “It was extremely inappropriate for him to make such comments.”
In response, Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) criticized the DPP for interpreting Ma’s statement out of context. Lo said all Ma did was express Taiwan’s resolve to protect itself.
“What the president said was we do not rule out the possibility that the US would provide us with defensive weapons and that we will continue to cooperate with the US on military security,” Lo said.
During the interview, Amanpour asked Ma why the US should risk so much for Taiwan.
Ma said the risk for the US is the lowest it has been in 60 years, thanks to his administration’s efforts to improve cross-strait relations.
“That is why the current [Obama] administration, like previous administrations, is very pleased with what has happened in the last two years. We will continue to reduce the risks and we will continue to purchases arms from the US,” he said. “But we will never ask the US to fight for Taiwan. This is something that is very, very clear.”
Hsiao Bi-khim’s (蕭美琴), director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs, said that Ma’s remark removed the vagueness of the US’ Asia-Pacific policy and that the Taiwan Relations Act could allow the US to assist Taiwan in security matters if needed.
Lo did not say whether Ma meant that there wouldn’t be war in the Taiwan Strait, but said such a risk is the lowest it has been for two years.
Ma said in October 2008 that there would not be war in the Taiwan Strait in the next four years. Nevertheless, he said his administration would earmark a “reasonable and sufficient” budget to maintain a strong military.
Lo said yesterday that Washington was concerned about cross-strait relations and hoped that the relationship between Taiwan and China remained stable, as it was in the US’ interests.
Taiwan must continue to reduce tension across the Strait, Lo said, because it is “the most direct and fundamental way” to prevent war.
Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) also downplayed the president’s comment yesterday.
He said the president was simply highlighting Taiwan’s determination to defend itself.
“The remark showed our determination and confidence. This is what a leader [should say],” Wu said. “Or are we going to say that we are looking for protection from other nations?”
KMT Legislator Justin Chou (周守訓), chair of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee, said Ma’s remark would have a positive effect on the development of cross-strait relations, adding that Ma was reiterating his promise that no war would break out between Taiwan and China during his term in office.
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