Taiwan has no choice but to maintain the “status quo,” and as such, must prioritize “deterrence and communication” in its approach to Beijing, Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said.
In a Bloomberg TV interview that aired on Thursday, Ko said that for the time being, maintaining the cross-strait “status quo” is “the only choice we have,” since “the US won’t let Taiwan unify with China, and China won’t let Taiwan become independent.”
“There’s no point in even talking about unification or independence right now because you can’t achieve either,” he said.
Photo: An Rong Xu, Bloomberg
Asked how he would try to defuse Taiwan’s currently tense relations with China, the former Taipei mayor said he would be guided by the principles of “deterrence and communication.”
Credible deterrence is necessary for Taiwan to be able to effectively negotiate with China, while communication is needed to reduce hostility and lower the risk of miscommunication that could lead to war, he said.
Elaborating on his national defense views, Ko said he supported increasing the defense budget to 3 percent of Taiwan’s GDP — higher than the record 2.5 percent the government has requested in next year’s budget proposal.
Ko said that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), despite its habit of “opposing China every day,” has failed to adequately equip Taiwan’s military and has spent defense funds in a “reckless” manner.
For the defense of an island nation like Taiwan, the priorities should be cybersecurity, the air force, the navy and then the army, in that order, Ko said.
“To be honest, I don’t know why Taiwan is buying M1 Abrams tanks. Those tanks can’t even be driven across a lot of our bridges. The defense budget needs to be increased, but the way it is distributed needs to be rational,” Ko said.
Ko was also asked for his view on the so-called “1992 consensus” — a term that former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) in 2006 admitted making up in 2000, referring to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
In response, Ko said that the consensus has been “stigmatized” in Taiwan and that he would deal with the issue “pragmatically” and not get stuck in disputes over terminology.
“When China asks if we accept the ‘92 consensus,’ the DPP government directly says ‘no.’ My answer would be: ‘There doesn’t seem to be a market for this in Taiwan. Should we change the name of the term?’” he said.
On the issue of China more broadly, Ko said he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) was busy dealing with internal problems like high unemployment and an economic bubble, and that Taiwan was not “near the top of his list.”
In such circumstances, Taiwan should focus on avoiding confrontation and not “stick [its] neck out,” he said, adding that “you don’t want to be your enemy’s No. 1 goal.”
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