Taiwan committed to increasing defense spending: president

Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen (???) pledged Tuesday that Taiwan will continue to increase defense spending, develop its indigenous defense industry and work with like-minded partners to contribute to regional peace and security.

"Taiwan is truly aware that regional and global security are inseparable from our safety and prosperity," Tsai said at the Ketagalan Forum: 2018 Asia Pacific Security Dialogue, an annual event hosted by the government-affiliated Prospect Foundation.

"To do our part, we are committed to robust defense and deterrence forces," the president said. "Our defense expenditures will keep pace with our needs and GDP growth and we are developing our indigenous defense industry as well."

Tsai's remarks came after the United States Department of State urged Taiwan to increase its defense budget at a level commensurate with its security challenges.

The U.S. Department of State's spokesperson made the remarks when asked to respond to Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (???) who said a day earlier that Taiwan needs the U.S.'s continuous support in the face of China's growing military threat.

Though the Tsai government has repeatedly pledged to boost defense spending since taking office in May 2016, actual spending increases have been small, including a 1.9 percent increase for fiscal 2018.

That has left military spending at around 2 percent of GDP, far short of the 3 percent of GDP the Tsai administration envisioned after taking power in May 2016.

In October 2017, Tsai committed to annual increases in defense spending of 2 percent with a possible additional 1 percent increase for special weapons procurements.

She offered no specifics on spending increases in her speech delivered at the opening of the forum, instead focusing on general regional security trends and warned of China's continuing threat.

The political, economic and military dynamics of the region have been evolving rapidly over the past year, she said, with some developments creating opportunities, such as the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un in June.

"But others are creating challenges," Tsai said. "Those challenges, both traditional and non-traditional, are undermining our shared democratic values and the rules-based international order that has helped this region establish peace, stability, and prosperity since the end of the Second World War."

Tsai went on to single out the challenges posed by China to the region.

"Regrettably, in recent years, China has adopted an aggressive policy to advance its own agenda around the world. It has continued to employ sharp power to influence its neighbors, including conducting military exercises in this region and sending aircraft to encircle Taiwan," Tsai said.

Facing the challenges, Tsai said countries in the region need not respond alone because "our shared values are a common bond for all of us here."

"We can work together to ensure that future global security won't be determined by military or economic might. Instead, it will be guided by the values of freedom and democracy," Tsai said, adding that the approach has been adopted by her administration.

Tsai said that the New Southbound Policy launched since she took office in 2016 is one of Taiwan's major efforts to advance the shared values and interests. "The aim is to coordinate our efforts and create a prosperous future for all," she said.

The hosting of the Ketagalan forum was another example, Tsai said.

The forum was inaugurated last year with an aim to bring local and international experts together with officials to discuss changes in the region's geopolitical landscape and how to enhance cooperation to best address emerging security challenges.

"It is heartening to see that even as the world changes, our commitment to our shared values is unshakable," Tsai said to hundreds of attendees, among them including former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and experts from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.

"The only way we can jointly respond to evolving global challenges is by strengthening our regional and global partnerships," Tsai said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel