WASHINGTON, D.C.: Taiwan’s opposition leader said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) if he wins office he will boost military spending and show “self-confidence” toward a rising China, as he courted US support during a visit to Washington.
Su Tseng-chang, chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, said that he generally welcomed the relationship between Taiwan and China that has grown since the island elected Beijing-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou in 2008.
But Su charged that China has not reciprocated goodwill gestures from Taiwan and said that any efforts by the mainland to change the island’s identity as self-governing and democratic were “totally unacceptable.”
“Taiwan should engage a rising China with self-confidence,” Su told the Brookings Institution think tank.
He said that, if the opposition takes power, “Taiwan will continue this friendly approach toward the People Republic of China [PRC], but we also urge the PRC not to push Taiwan into a corner.”
Su, who was spending several days in Washington, said that he was telling US
policymakers that his party was “fully committed to Taiwan’s self-defense” at a time when China is rapidly increasing its military budget.
“Democracy and security do not fall from heaven. They come with a cost,” he said. “It is
time for us to demonstrate that we are serious about our own self-defense.”
“We ask not what the US can do for Taiwan, but ask what Taiwan can do to earn the US support,” he said.
The United States is obligated by domestic law to provide Taiwan with the means of self-defense.
President Barack Obama’s administration has approved billions of dollars in sales but held off on Taiwan’s longstanding requests to buy new F-16 jets, a step that would anger China.
Ma has set a target of devoting three percent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product to defense but the government has instead pruned the budget as other economic priorities emerge and tensions with China decrease.
Taiwan’s government was founded by the nationalist Kuomintang, now led by Ma, in 1949 after the party lost the mainland’s civil war. The island has since developed into a vibrant democracy.
Beijing considers Taiwan a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.