President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday vowed that Taiwan would continue to increase defense spending, develop its indigenous defense industry and work with like-minded partners to contribute to regional peace and security.
“Taiwan is truly aware that regional and global security are inseparable from our safety and prosperity,” Tsai said at the Ketagalan Forum: 2018 Asia Pacific Security Dialogue, an annual event hosted by the government-affiliated Prospect Foundation.
“To do our part, we are committed to a robust defense and deterrence forces,” she said. “Our defense expenditures will keep pace with our needs and GDP growth, and we are developing our indigenous defense industry as well.”
Tsai’s remarks came after the US Department of State urged Taiwan to increase its defense budget to a level commensurate with its security challenges.
A department spokesperson made the remark when asked about what Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) had said a day earlier regarding Taiwan’s need for continual support from the US in the face of China’s growing military threat.
Although the government has repeatedly pledged to boost defense spending since Tsai took office in May 2016, actual spending increases have been small, including a 1.9 percent increase for fiscal 2018.
That has left military spending at about 2 percent of GDP, far short of the 3 percent of GDP that Tsai envisioned when taking office.
Tsai in October last year committed to 2 percent annual increases in defense spending, with a possible additional 1 percent increase for special weapons procurements.
She offered no specifics on spending increases in her opening speech at the forum, focusing instead on trends in regional security and warning against China’s continuing threat.
The political, economic and military dynamics of the region have been evolving rapidly over the past year, with some developments creating opportunities, such as the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un last month, Tsai said.
“But others are creating challenges,” she said. “Those challenges, both traditional and non-traditional, are undermining our shared democratic values and the rules-based international order that has helped this region establish peace, stability and prosperity since the end of World War II.”
In facing the challenges, countries in the region need not respond alone, because “our shared values are a common bond for all of us here,” she added.
“We can work together to ensure that future global security won’t be determined by military or economic might. Instead, it will be guided by the values of freedom and democracy,” Tsai said, adding that this approach has been adopted by her administration.
Tsai said that the New Southbound Policy launched by her administration is one of Taiwan’s major efforts to advance shared values and interests.
“The aim is to coordinate our efforts and create a prosperous future for all,” she said, adding that hosting the Ketagalan Forum was another example of working together and promoting shared values.
The forum was inaugurated last year to enable government officials to discuss changes in the region’s geopolitical landscape with local and international experts, and to determine how best to enhance cooperation in addressing emerging security challenges.
“It is heartening to see that even as the world changes, our commitment to our shared values is unshakable,” Tsai said to the hundreds of attendees, including former US secretary of defense Ash Carter and experts from the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.
“The only way we can jointly respond to evolving global challenges is by strengthening our regional and global partnerships,” Tsai said.
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