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President Tsai addresses Indo-Pacific Leaders Dialogue session (excerpt: cross-strait relations)

  • Date:2020-08-27

Hong Kong's National Security Law and Threats in the South China Sea

Now, I have spoken about freedom and democracy throughout this talk. I want to mention one of the biggest challenges we have to tackle, that is, the "Hong Kong version of the National Security Law".

The passage of this law garnered tremendous attention from the international community. In Taiwan, we strongly support the people of Hong Kong's quest for democracy, freedom and human rights, and we commend our democratic allies, such as Australia, the US, UK and Canada for taking action to support Hong Kong and safeguard democracy.

We are also paying close attention to the potential hotspots of conflict in the East and South China Seas. We call on the international community to be vigilant and work together, in accordance with international law, to resolve any issue or conflict peacefully.

President Tsai then responded to written questions submitted by ASPI.

Q: How do you interpret the one China policy – does it recognize mainland China sovereignty or accept a status quo of competing sovereign claims to one China?

A: As shown in Mr. Xi's statement early last year, Beijing's formulation of One China is in essence "one country, two systems". This is not acceptable to the people of Taiwan, especially in light of the developments we have witnessed in Hong Kong.

We are a country with a very vibrant democracy, and the PRC has no jurisdiction over Taiwan. Our citizens enjoy full political rights, and we reject any attempts to downgrade Taiwan.

We in Taiwan are committed to maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and I am sure that this has not gone unnoticed by the international community.
Q: Is Taiwan pursuing independence? Is reunification possible?

A: Taiwan is Taiwan. Our existence simply cannot be questioned. We have our own government, we have free elections, and our people can choose their own leaders. We have our own military and own democratic institutions, none of which have ever been under Beijing's jurisdiction.

I also want to emphasize that the future of Taiwan is to be decided by the people of Taiwan. This is what we have been insisting.

I also want to reiterate our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We are open to discussions with China, as long as they contribute to a beneficial relationship. And it is important that such discussions are based on the four principles: that is peace, parity, democracy and dialogue. Peace means we will seek peace with Beijing without the use of force to settle our differences. Parity refers to both sides not denying each other's existence. Democracy means Beijing must recognize that as a democracy, Taiwan's future will be decided by our own people. And dialogue means we will not refrain from discussions with Beijing that are not based on political preconditions. Taiwan is willing to promote cross-strait interactions if these pillars are upheld.
Q: What are the risks of conflict and what would Taiwan expect of Australia?

A: The risks of conflict require careful management by all the parties concerned. We expect and hope that Beijing will continue to exercise restraint, consistent with their obligations as a major regional power. Furthermore, the international community has closely followed the situation in Hong Kong, as well as China's militarization of the South China Sea. As a result, there is now greater scrutiny over the situation in the Taiwan Strait.

There continue to be significant concerns over the potential for accidents, given increased military activity in the region. Therefore, we believe it would be important for all parties to maintain open lines of communications to prevent misinterpretations or miscalculations.

In terms of our interactions with Australia, we are grateful for Australia's advocacy for Taiwan's international space, including participation in the World Health Assembly. As the current pandemic exemplifies, it is important for all countries to be fully represented on the international stage, especially when it comes to health and public safety. We believe Taiwan being engaged internationally, and having a voice at these international organizations, is important to people all over the world.

We hope that Australia also continues to recognize the importance of Taiwan's security in terms of the broader Indo-Pacific region. After Hong Kong, Taiwan stands increasingly on the front lines of freedom and democracy. We certainly hope that like-minded countries will continue to work together to ensure Taiwan's security, which is in the interests of peace and stability in the region.
Q: How does Taiwan prepare itself for this more volatile and dangerous period?

A: Three components are absolutely essential to ensure that Taiwan is adequately prepared. The first is our commitment to ensuring that we continue to take a pragmatic and consistent approach to our cross-strait policy. As I said during my inauguration speech, I will continue to uphold four principles in terms of cross-strait relations. That is peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue.

This means that the international community can continue to expect that my overall commitment to cross-strait peace and stability will remain consistent into my second term.

Another issue of importance is to strengthen our defense capabilities. We do this because we know that in terms of our current situation, strength can be correlated with deterrence. It also reduces the risk of military adventurism. To this end, my government has made quite serious commitments to increasing our defense budget, updating our defense strategies, including the Overall Defense Concept, and ensuring that our men and women in uniform are better equipped and trained.

The third component is to strengthen our linkages with like-minded countries. This is a situation that requires collective efforts, as well as recognition that Taiwan is on the front lines of democracy in the world. We will continue to seek a stronger security partnership with the United States and other like-minded countries in the region, built on our shared values and common interests.