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President Chen's Remarks at the Videoconference with the National Press Club

  • Date:2007-05-29

May 29, 2007


Remarks by H.E. President Chen Shui-bian at the Videoconference with the National Press Club (May 29, 2007)

NPC Vice Chairman and today's host Mr. Hickman; NPC President Zremski; Representative Davis; former AIT Chairman Dr. Bush; former AIT Chairwoman Ms. Shaheen; former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mr. Schriver; Chairman Hammond of the US-Taiwan Business Council; Friends from the Press; Ladies and Gentlemen: Good Morning!

It is both a pleasure and an honor to once again accept the invitation of Vice Chairman Hickman with the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington D.C. to join Newsmaker through videoconference today. I recall that, when serving as a legislator and later as Taipei City mayor, the Club invited me to partake in a press conference. At that time I was able to meet you in Washington D.C. in person. But today, to our regret, I can only meet my dear old friends at the NPC through videoconference. I want to express my sincere appreciation and respect to Vice Chairman Hickman and to the NPC for rendering Taiwan your firm support despite China's relentless pressure. I also want to thank you for making this press conference possible. I hope that our friendship will continue to transcend both time and space, and constantly be rekindled.

May 20th marked the seventh anniversary of my inauguration as the President of Taiwan. The following day, we finished reorganizing and swearing-in the new cabinet. Although there is only one year left of my presidency, it doesn't signify the end of an era, but instead, the advent of a new beginning.

Looking back on US-Taiwan relations over the past seven years, I think we can best describe it with the saying: "a friend in need is a friend indeed". Taiwan and the US have enjoyed a solid camaraderie over the years. Forming the crucial bedrock of our relations are our shared values of freedom and democracy, as well as our strategic interests in ensuring security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. In this light, both of us are committed to maintaining and defending Taiwan's democracy and the status quo of peace in the Taiwan Strait, and to preventing any unilateral change.

It is in the long-term interests for both our countries to see to a Taiwan that is growing ever-more free, more democratic, and fully protects human rights, a Taiwan whose national sovereignty is independent from the PRC, and a Taiwan that is committed to enhancing its self-defense capabilities.

In stark contrast, a Taiwan ruled by any political party that upholds the goal of "ultimate unification with China," that heavily leans toward China, that strongly encourages alliance with the Chinese Communist Party to jointly control Taiwan, and that refuses to keep its commitments and does nothing but boycott and set hurdles for the national defense budget would pose a severe challenge and trial to the mutual trust and foundation for cooperation laid by our two countries over the years.

Over the past half a century, the US and Taiwan have engaged in intensive exchange and interaction on a wide range of issues including economy, trade, culture, security and even counter-terrorism. However, the core issues always revolve around ensuring peace in the Taiwan Strait. An increasing amount of substantial evidence indicates the major factors for the intensification and escalation of cross-strait tension do not stem from Taiwan's continued efforts to deepen its democracy, but rather from China's rapid military expansion.

The US Defense Department publishes an annual report titled Military Power of the People's Republic of China. The 2005 edition explicitly pointed out for the first time that the military balance across the Taiwan Strait has tilted in China's favor. The 2006 edition stated that China's military expansion and modernization could then challenge all foreign forces operating in the Asia-Pacific region and that the Chinese authorities should provide a reasonable motivation for its military build-up. The 2007 edition of the report was released just a few days ago, on May 25. It even conjectured that the aim of China's military modernization surpasses the need to resolve a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. China has upset the military balance not only in the Taiwan Strait, but also in all of East Asia. It has enabled the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to launch military activities outside of Taiwan Strait, and could start with activities in its peripheral region. China is marching toward becoming a global military hegemony.

In addition, according to these reports over the years, the number of missiles China has deployed along its southeast coast targeting Taiwan has increased from 725 in 2005, to 790 in 2006, and 900 in 2007. It is estimated that this figure will exceed 1000 next year. Our own intelligence and estimates have reached a similar conclusion. This development not only severely threatens Taiwan's national security, but also causes great concern on the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

In the face of an increasingly tense cross-strait situation, Taiwan is grateful for a number of actions taken by the US government, including: the Bush administration's approval of major arms sales projects in 2001; urging the EU countries to maintain arms embargo against China; listing the Taiwan issue as a "common strategic objective in the US-Japan Security Consultative meeting, the so-called "two plus two" talks"; and insistence on a peaceful resolution, through dialogue, to the dispute across the Taiwan Strait. Therefore, on behalf of the 23 million people of Taiwan, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to President Bush and the US government. And I want to reiterate that my pledges to defending the status quo in the Taiwan Strait remain unchanged.

Apart from increasing its military threat against Taiwan, China has used every possible means to squeeze Taiwan out of the international community. China has adopted a "three all" diplomatic strategy to 'snatch all' of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, 'block all' of Taiwan's lifelines to international politics and 'take all' of Taiwan's leverage in negotiating on an equal footing. China is trying to erase all trace of Taiwan in the global society.

Let me give you two examples. The recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva and the General Assembly of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) held in Paris. In the face of China's unreasonable suppression, Taiwan has long been excluded from participating in the World Health Organization (WHO). This exclusion has made Taiwan the only gap, indeed a black hole, in the global disease-prevention network. It has also deprived the 23 million people of Taiwan of their health right, a basic human right. To remedy this flaw, nations friendly with Taiwan, including the US and Japan, have supported Taiwan's participation as an observer in the WHA and actively assisted Taiwan's meaningful participation in WHO-held activities and meetings. However, a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between China and the WHO Secretariat in July 2005 stated that all applications of Taiwanese medical and public health professionals to participate in WHO activities are subject to China's approval. Furthermore, China requires that representatives from Taiwan can only take part in WHO technical meetings in their personal capacities, and that all meeting documents must indicate clearly that these public health experts are from "Taiwan, China." In addition, in the case of an acute public health emergency in Taiwan, the WHO must first gain the approval of China before deciding whether or not it dispatches experts to assist Taiwan. China tries every possible means to downgrade and pressure Taiwan, making Taiwan's "meaningful participation" in fact meaningless.

On the 25th of this month, the World Organization for Animal Health (known as OIE) succumbed to pressure from China. It passed a draft resolution to downgrade Taiwan's status, from a sovereign country to a non-sovereign regional member. OIE's rationale was based solely on China's unilateral assertion that the PRC includes Taiwan, and the PRC government is the sole legitimate government representing the whole of China. This argument is unprecedented, surpassing and replacing Beijing's past official position, the so-called "three-stage theory on one China"; that is, "there is only one China in the world, Mainland and Taiwan both belong to that one China, and China's sovereignty and territorial integrity admits of no partition."

The reality is that Taiwan has never been under the jurisdiction of the PRC. Taiwan is an independent, sovereign country, and our sovereignty is independent from the rule of China. Taiwan and China are two independent nations on each side of the Taiwan Strait. Neither exercises effective jurisdiction over the other. Taiwan is Taiwan, and China is China; there is one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan currently has official diplomatic relations with 25 countries around the world. Therefore, to include Taiwan as part of PRC not only ignores a historical fact, but also directly challenges the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by attempting to change and damage that status quo.

The international community, especially the free democratic camp led by the United States, Japan and member states of the European Union, should not overlook China's irrational demands and unreasonable behavior simply because of its size and power. History has taught us one important lesson, that appeasement breeds aggression. To maintain lasting peace in the Taiwan Strait and ensure security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, the international community must send the right message to China. The world community must actively guide China towards political democratization, and join forces to build a more democratic, freer and safer world.

In today's world, we are confronted with challenges such as water shortage, global warming and abnormal climate change. Taiwan will shoulder our responsibility and obligation as a member of the global society, and find a new equilibrium point, where economic development is balanced with environmental protection. Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is actively bidding for WHO membership under the name Taiwan. However, besides pursuing a sustainable economy and health, we believe that we should go one step further and strive for a sustainable environment. As such, Taiwan is willing to work with other countries from all over the world that share similarly visions to propose and push for the creation of a World Environmental Organization (WEO). By setting up an institution that integrate the strengths of different nations to co-manage these issues on a global level, together we can deal with challenges of the global ecological environment.

In closing, let me thank the NPC and Vice Chairman Hickman for your kind invitation and arrangements. I also want to thank all discussants and friends from the media for your participation. And now please feel free to share your valuable comments and insights. Thank you very much.

【Source: Office of the President】