Taiwan president says only military strength can keep the peace with China, Asia News

TAIPEI — Only military strength can keep the peace with China, and the Taiwanese people will not give in to Chinese coercion, Taiwan President Lai Ching-te said on June 19 as the United States agreed on a speeded-up arms package.

China, whose government views Taiwan as its own territory, held two days of war games around the island shortly after Lai took office in May, saying it was “punishment” for his inauguration speech, which Beijing denounced as being full of separatist context.

Speaking at a news conference to mark one month since assuming the presidency, Lai said Taiwan’s people “love peace”. “But peace must rely on strength, which is to say, avoiding war by preparing for war to achieve peace. Empty promises are not true peace,” he said.

China’s national policy is to annex Taiwan, Lai added.

“Apart from using force, in recent years, they have even been using non-traditional coercive measures to force Taiwan to succumb, but Taiwan will not give in,” he said.

Taiwan says such coercive means include preventing Taiwan’s participation in international bodies and events, banning or heavily taxing certain exports to China, and “grey zone” tactics such as flying balloons over the island.

Shortly before Lai spoke to reporters at the presidential office in Taipei, the Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the US State Department had approved the sale of drones and missiles to Taiwan for an estimated US$360 million (S$486 million).

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties — to the constant anger of Beijing.

Taiwan’s defence ministry expressed its thanks, especially for US efforts to increase arms sales to the island. Taiwan has repeatedly complained of delayed deliveries.

“The Taiwan-US special management team continues to work hard to improve the efficiency of arms sales operations between the two sides. This time, the administrative review time has been significantly shortened,” the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.

Although the United States is Taiwan’s main international arms provider, Lai and his predecessor Tsai Ing-wen have made boosting domestic capabilities a priority.

“Going forward, we will continue to strengthen Taiwan’s defence capabilities, not only on arms purchases but also on defence self-sufficiency,” Lai said.

Lai has repeatedly offered to hold talks with China but has been rebuffed.

He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are “not subordinate to each other”, which he told reporters was the consensus of society in Taiwan.

ALSO READ: China dismisses Taiwan’s concerns after man arrested on river leading to Taipei