Tag Archives: President Ma Ying-jeou

Taiwan renders disaster relief to Philippines

The Taiwanese people and government continued donating funds and relief supplies to the Philippines following the disaster caused by super Typhoon Haiyan. The storm devastated the central Philippines on November 8, causing more than 6,000 deaths and wreaking havoc among 10 million people.

As of December 5, money and material donations made by Taiwan’s government, civic groups and individual citizens have reached NT$358.5 million (US$11.09 million). In addition, within days of the disaster, a 35-person team organized by the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps arrived in the affected areas to provide free medical assistance.

In accordance with President Ma Ying-jeou’s vision of Taiwan as a humanitarian aid provider, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has worked closely with non-governmental organizations to provide prompt relief and assistance in rebuilding the hardest hit areas.

Late November, Sun Wen-hsien, president of the Chiu Chang Mathematics Education Foundation, took a group of 27 schoolchildren to the Philippines to participate in the International Mathematics and Science Olympiad for Primary School Students. Through the organizing committee, the participating students also carried 10 kilograms of rice, noodles, biscuits or canned food to be donated to storm victims.

These efforts follow the airlifting of more than 150 metric tons of aid in 18 flights by Taiwan’s Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo planes, as well as the transport of 530 metric tons of relief goods to Cebu Port aboard its naval vessel.

Supplies included prefabricated homes, solar generators, tents, rice, clothing, ready-to-eat food and potable water, donated by private citizens and a wide range of civic organizations and charity groups, including Taiwan’s Red Cross Society, Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, Bliss and Wisdom Foundation, Namchou Chemical Industrial Co. Ltd., I-mei Foods Co. Ltd., I-Kuan Tao Association, and National Fishermen’s Association.

The goods were distributed with the assistance of volunteers working for Taiwan’s charity groups in the Philippines, joined by over 16,000 Filipinos affected by the typhoon who were employed by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.

Early December, while leading a trade delegation to the Philippines, Wang Chih-kang, chairman of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA), donated US$120,000 collected by the organization.

Taiwan’s government agencies, coordinated by Minister without Portfolio Lin Junq-tzer, have worked closely with the  Ministry of Health and Welfare which promptly established a special bank account for monetary donations, while MOFA and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) designated two aid supply collection centers, one in northern Taiwan and one in the south. As mentioned before, the MND also dispatched aircraft and a ship to transport relief supplies, as well as mobilizing soldiers to help collect, sort, pack, load and ship the goods.

The Gambia severs diplomatic ties with Taiwan

A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official has announced that China was not involved in Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, according to the Central News Agency. On November 18, David Wang, director-general of the MOFA’s Department of West Asian and African Affairs, made the comment after local media reported on Jammeh’s November 15 Facebook posting declaring that the People’s Republic of China will be recognized diplomatically by The Gambia in the future.

According to Wang, the Facebook post was dated a day after Jammeh informed President Ma Ying-jeou in a personal letter of his decision to end diplomatic ties with Taiwan, effective immediately. “The post did not mean Jammeh would immediately establish diplomatic ties with Beijing,” he noted, adding that he believes the Facebook message was mainly aimed at justifying Jammeh’s choice to sever diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan).

The MOFA said in a statement that the ROC Embassy in the West African state will be shut down, its technical mission will be withdrawn and all cooperative programs will be terminated.

Jammeh on November 15 unilaterally announced the decision to terminate the 18-year-long diplomatic relations between his country, officially known as the Republic of the Gambia, and Taiwan. Given that the West African nation did not have ties with the People’s Republic of China at the same time, reported the United Daily News, the decision may be based on Jammeh’s personal choice, who is known to be unpredictable. Last month, Jammeh withdrew his country from the British Commonwealth and three years ago, he unexpectedly severed relations with Iran.

Whatever the reason, The Gambia’s move has posed a huge challenge to the “diplomatic truce” or “flexible diplomacy” policy of President Ma. The policy is aimed at putting an end to the “checkbook diplomacy” competition between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Over the past five years, both sides have refrained from luring away each other’s diplomatic allies with monetary incentives, noted the United Daily News.

The Gambia was the first country to sever official relations with Taiwan since President Ma began implementing his diplomatic truce policy five years ago. Without The Gambia, Taiwan still maintains diplomatic relations with 22 countries.

Taiwan and China discuss establishing bilateral offices

After the June 13 meeting with China’s new leader Xi Jinping, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung said that he was confident Taiwan and China will establish official representative offices so as to facilitate the handling of bilateral affairs, according to the Central News Agency. The Wu-Xi meeting is the first high-level meeting between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since Xi became the general secretary of the party last November.

In the meeting with Xi, Wu sent regards to Xi on behalf of Taiwan’s president and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou and has reiterated Taiwan’s stance on developing its relations with China. Apart from discussing mutual representative offices, Wu underscored the Taiwan government’s adherence to the “1992 consensus” and its stance against independence as the basis of political mutual trust.

The “1992 consensus” refers to the understanding reached by both sides’ representatives at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong discussing the definition of “one China.” The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it to mean the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote mutual exchanges.

Wu said that Taiwan hopes to take part in more international affairs and become further integrated in the regional economy. He made a case for greater and meaningful participation for Taiwan internationally. He also called for deeper economic cooperation and conveyed Taiwan’s hopes for admission into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade body led by China, Japan, South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member states, the Central News Agency reported.

Since President Ma took office in 2008, Taiwan and China have institutionalized cross-strait consultations, signed 18 agreements, and held eight meetings so as to lay a solid foundation for cross-strait exchanges. At present, the relations between the two sides are in the best shape in 60 years.

The United Evening News reported that during President Ma’s re-election campaign in October, 2011, he promised to promote the setting up of mutual offices. At the consultation meeting this January, the two sides decided to limit offices to public service level so as to circumvent the sovereignty dispute. Both sides have agreed that the major functions should be economic and trade, culture and education, and emergency relief. Taiwan expects to set up offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and to be able to engage in business of consular affairs such as issuing travel documents.

President Ma said that the opening of official offices is a major part of building healthy relations between Taiwan and the mainland, managing both sides’ yearly interaction of 8 million people and trade worth of US$160 billion. According to the Central News Agency, he noted that it is unimaginable that the two political entities have no official offices at this level to help facilitate this.

Discussions on the establishment of mutrual offices will be conducted through Taiwan’s semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Established in 1991, it is responsible for cross-strait affairs, and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

At the same time of the Wu-Xi meeting, Taiwan’s Legislature was reviewing the regulations of cross-strait mutual establishment of offices.

The KMT stressed that cross-strait relations are a “special relationship of equal footing,” but not a state-to-state relationship, and the two sides set up offices, not consulates, while the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party argued that the cross-strait relationship is one between countries, and that cross-strait mutual establishment of offices must follow “the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” and shall be in accordance with the norms of international law and international practices, including national flags being hoisted at these offices and the national emblem revealed. The lawmakers of both parties insisted that offices of the two sides should have the function of judicial visitation rights. The two parties have not been able to reach a consensus on the contents of the regulations, reported the Central News Agency.

After lifting US beef imports, Taiwan hopes to resume trade talks with Washington

In an August 6 meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, Jose W. Fernandez, President Ma Ying-jeou stressed that after the Legislative Yuan passes the bill allowing US beef imports, Taiwan hopes to resume talks with Washington on inking a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Delayed and stagnated for the last five years, the TIFA’s passage would create an appropriate environment for Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) in eight years, further advancing the island’s integration into the Asian regional economy.

President Ma pointed out that for the past four years he has actively improved US-Taiwan relations with concrete results. Taiwan’s air defenses have been bolstered with the US government’s approval to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16 A/B fighters for US$18.3 billion. Furthermore, at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly acknowledged Taiwan as an important economic and security partner of the US, cementing the friendly and cooperative relations between the two sides. By the end of this year, President Ma hopes that Taiwan will be added to the list of US visa waiver program (VWP) countries as well.

President Ma told Fernandez that the US is Taiwan’s third largest trading partner, the third largest export market and source of imports, and Taiwan is America’s 10th largest trading partner. In 2011, Taiwan-US bilateral trade amounted to US$67.2 billion, an 8.6 percent growth rate compared with 2010. This further shows the close trade relations between the two countries.

The president said that Taiwan has already signed an FTA-like Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) with mainland China, Taiwan’s largest trading partner. The island has also signed an investment and protection agreement with Japan, Taiwan’s second largest trading partner, and now, it is looking very likely that talks on the TIFA will move forward again, giving Taiwan a chance to resume talks with its third largest trading partner after resolving the issue of American beef imports.

The President stressed that since Taiwan has already allowed imports of American beef, it is hoped that both sides can resume the TIFA negotiations as soon as possible, so that bilateral economic and trade negotiations can get back on track in order to benefit the business community and the people of the two countries.

On July 25, the Legislature passed three revisions and one additional binding resolution to the Act Governing Food Sanitation, which conditionally eased Taiwan’s zero-tolerance policy against US beef imports with traces of ractopamine, a disputed leanness-enhancing drug. The amendments are based on a maximum residue level (MRL) of 10 parts per billion for beef, dictated by the United Nations’ Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Assistant Secretary of State Fernandez is one of the highest ranking American officials to have visited Taiwan in recent years. During their conversation, Fernandez proved himself to be a Jeremy Lin fan, expressing his hope that Lin returns to play for the New York Knicks one day. The Taiwanese-American NBA player also visited Taiwan in early August.

President Ma proposes East China Sea initiative

On August 5, President Ma Ying-jeou proposed a peace initiative to address territorial disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands, urging neighboring countries to show restraint and settle the issue peacefully, according to the Taipei Times. Taiwan, Japan and mainland China have been involved in acrimonious disputes over the sovereignty over the Diaoyutais for several years.

“We hope to use the East China Sea Peace Initiative to urge all sides to seriously face the possible impact of this territorial dispute on peace and security in the East China Sea,” President Ma said.

President Ma called on all parties to refrain from aggression, to shelve their differences, maintain dialogue, to observe international law and resolve the dispute by peaceful means. All sides should also seek consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea, and establish a mechanism for cooperation in exploring and developing resources in the region, he said. President Ma was speaking during the opening ceremony at an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the peace treaty signed between the Republic of China and Japan following WW II.

Known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, the Diaoyutais are located in the East China Sea, which is an important air and sea transportation hub in the western Pacific, and is therefore also important for the peace and security in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan’s government has reiterated sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, which Taiwan considers to be under the jurisdiction of Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan.

In response to President Ma’s initiative, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on August 7 that the Japanese government cannot accept the idea expressed by Taiwan because the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s inherent territory. However, he stressed, this will not affect the current good relations between Taiwan and Japan, according to the Central News Agency. It is important to promote concrete cooperation to maintain peace, stability and order in the East China Sea, stressed Minister Gemba. Japan has no concrete proposals with regard to the type of cooperation, but there is room for brainstorming, he said.

In response to Koichiro’s remarks, Timothy Chin-Tien Yang, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands are an inherent territory of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that will not change. Minister Yang said that the distance from the Diaoyutai Islands to Taiwan is the shortest, being only 102 nautical miles from Keelung in northern Taiwan. Traditionally, this is where Taiwanese fishermen cruise and fish. The islands have been in Taiwan’s territorial waters historically, geographically and geologically, said Yang.

Minister Yang also stressed that there are some precedents in the international arena in line with President Ma’s initiative, such as the North Sea dispute in Europe. The area is now a sea of peace and cooperation for bordering countries to share the resources and peaceful development, noted Yang. Taiwan’s government is hoping that the situation in the East China Sea will emulate the North Sea model. Minister Yang pointed out that President Ma’s peace initiative for the East China Sea is a positive and practical proposal. Taiwan will enter into dialogue with Japan based on this initiative, according to the Central News Agency.

President Ma re-elected with over 50% of votes

Incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou, 61, candidate of ruling the Kuomintang (KMT), was re-elected for another four-year term on January 14 by winning 6,891,139 votes, accounting for 51.6 percent of the total votes.

In a short victory speech in front of his supporters, President Ma declared: “This is not a personal victory, but a victory for the people of Taiwan!” He said the success of his re-election was mainly the result of the people’s appreciation of his government’s efforts in tackling corruption, reviving the economy, and striving to ensure peaceful cross-strait relations. Taiwanese people have given him a clear mandate: let him continue his policy line, the Taipei-based China Times reported.

His strong competitor, Tsai Ing-wen, the first female presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), garnered 6,093,578 votes, 45.63 percent of the total valid votes. Tsai announced her resignation as DPP chairwoman directly after the election defeat. The third-placed candidate, James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), received 369,588 votes, about 2.77 percent.

Pan-Blue dominance in the north, pan-Green in the south

Among Taiwan’s 23 million residents, there were 18.08 million eligible voters in the presidential and legislative elections. The voter turnout was 74 percent.

The United Daily News reported President Ma beat Tsai with over one million votes in northern Taiwan, where the KMT used to dominate while Tsai only won by 530,000 in southern Taiwan where the DPP used to win. In the final count, the key to the victory of the pan-Blue camp including the KMT and PFP this time was to achieve a “big win in the north and a modest loss in the south.” Overall, the DPP won majorities only in six counties in the south and in Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan while the KMT won the remaining 15 counties.

Out of a total of 113 seats in the legislative elections, the KMT took 64, losing 17 from the last election, while the DPP won 40 seats, an increase of 13 over last time. The PFP won three seats, an increase of two. The strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), considered as a member of the pan-Green camp, won three seats. In an analysis, the Liberty Times wrote that although the KMT still maintains an absolute majority in the Legislative Yuan and will continue to dominate in the executive and the legislature in the future, while the opposition including the DPP and the TSU control 43 seats, passing the one-third threshold, and are in a position to act as a viable opposition bloc.

The China Times said in a comment that the KMT has only five legislative seats in southern Taiwan while taking almost all seats in the north. Such a fortification of the division between the pan-Blue dominance in the north and the pan-Green’s hold on the south will further regionalize Taiwan’s parliamentary politics, sharpening the discrepancy between South and North.

“Thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese know what human dignity is like.”

The United Daily News reported that this was a tough presidential race. In the latter stages of the election, the “1992 consensus” became the focus of the presidential debate. Although facing criticism from opposition groups, Ma won the election, meaning that debates around the “1992 consensus” had also been won.

The “1992 consensus” between Taiwan and China, refers to the understanding reached by the two sides at the 1992 talks in Hong Kong, where the issue of “one China” was discussed. The core content of the consensus is “one China, respective interpretations.” In simple terms, “one China” is recognized by Beijing to mean the People’s Republic of China (PRC), whereas Taiwan interprets it as meaning the Republic of China (ROC). The two sides recognize each other as a political entity and are willing to shelve the sovereignty dispute in order to promote exchanges and interactions.

The United Daily News commented that President Ma’s government has made some concrete achievements in cross-strait policies, such as opening of direct flights between Taiwan and China, allowing mainland Chinese tourists to travel to Taiwan, and in 2010 signing a free trade-like agreement with Beijing called the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). In contrast, the DPP has no clear-cut policy on cross-strait issues, and stresses the issue of independence for Taiwan. In the final stages of the election campaign, the US government announced that Taiwan would be included as a candidate country to enjoy visa waiver status, and Taiwanese business tycoons like Terry Gou of the Foxconn Group, Chang Yung-fa of the Evergreen Group, and Cher Wang of HTC came out in support of the “1992 consensus.”

According to an analysis from NOWnews, Taiwanese people have a stereotype impression of the DPP’s cross-strait policies because President Chen Shui-bian’s administration (2000-2008) maintained a hostile stance toward China, creating tense relations with Beijing. After the signing of the ECFA, voters have seen the economic benefits of such an agreement with China. They worried that should Tsai be elected, that unstable cross-strait relations would re-emerge. Due to a fear of lost business and jobs that could have resulted in increased uncertainty, they backed Ma rather than Tsai.

The Commercial Times reported that Zhang Nianzi, dean of the Shanghai Institute of East Asian Studies, said that this election was a test and a review of China’s policy direction with regard to cross-strait relations, the commitment to the “1992 consensus,” and an expression of whether Beijing’s goodwill towards the island since 2008 has been appreciated by Taiwanese people. The election results give China “a lot of encouragement,” he said.

NOWnews reported that all the four major internet portals in China, including Baidu, Sina, Netease and Tencent gave headline news coverage to Taiwan’s presidential election on election day. This is the first time this has happened since Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996. However, China’s news media still use the term “leader of the Taiwan region,” instead of “President.”

Wang Weinan, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, who specializes in the study of Taiwan issues, told the Central News Agency that Chinese people very much admire the Taiwanese democratic voting system, adding that Taiwan sets an example for the Chinese people to follow. He said that this not only inspires the mainland people to change, but also is a rebuke to the Chinese government.

Liang Chunxiao, vice president of Alibaba Group, told the United Daily News “The Chinese are touched, saddened and appreciates the Taiwan election. We have no more excuse to say that Chinese people are of poor quality, and are not suitable for democracy.” Chinese economist Han Zhiguo said: “thanks to Taiwan, the Chinese community knows what human dignity is like.” Tientien Wuwei, a commentator for Jilin TV said: “Taiwan’s presidential election is in full swing, and 1.4 billion Chinese people can only be spectators. I support either Ma Ying-jeou or Tsai Ing-wen whoever wins because it is the result of democratic elections.”

The Want Daily reported that it is a disgrace to the Taiwanese if you compare Taiwan’s presidential election with the forthcoming election of Hong Kong’s chief executive on March 25, because according to “the Basic Law,” Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected by the votes of 1,200 members of the electoral college. These members are chosen by some 500,000 rich people or those with administrative powers. The seven million citizens of Hong Kong can do nothing to decide who is the next leader there.

Three major challenges ahead

President Ma Ying-jeou and his running mate Wu Den-yih (Taiwan’s current premier) will be inaugurated on May 20. The 113 elected legislators (75 males and 38 females, with an average age of 52) will be inaugurated on February 1. Both the president and the legislators will serve four-year terms in office. The China Times learned that current Vice Premier Sean Chen will very likely be promoted as the new premier. After President Ma’s recent victory, three major challenges awaits his administration.


The Want Daily noted that this election was a victory for those who support the KMT’s economics-oriented policy over those who emphasize the DPP’s ideology-based policies. One of the top priorities Ma’s administration must carry out is to strengthen support from those “economics-oriented voters who benefit from his cross-strait policy.” However, the Commercial Times said over 70 percent of Taiwan’s economy depends on foreign trade and electronics products account for almost 30 percent of total exports, and most of the electronics industry is overly concentrated in OEM models. This is why every time there is a global financial slowdown, Taiwan suffers much more than Japan or South Korea. The global economy has been dangerously affected by the financial slowdown and European junk bonds with no possible solution. Taiwan’s industrial structure has not changed much in the past four years. This is the weakest point for Taiwan’s economy. President Ma’s government should do its best to adjust the industrial structure and strengthen the quality of Taiwan’s economy.

Income gap issue

Since 2001, Taiwan has had a positive GDP, but the income gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen. The United Evening News commented that President Ma has not solved the wealth gap in the past four years, but he must deal with the issue in the coming four years. The government’s coziness with large enterprises has created dazzling statistics of economic growth, but it does not bring substantial benefits for Taiwan’s regional prosperity, job creation or and raising wages in real terms. So President Ma’s future government must rectify the allocation of resources and address the policy issues relevant to small and medium industry. The government must help such enterprises, which are the backbone of Taiwan’s economy, to flourish, so as to achieve a relatively equal distribution of national income.

Cross-strait relations

Lawyer Chen Chang-wen said in a commentary to the China Times that, through this election, the “1992 consensus” can be recognized as the people’s political view in Taiwan. It is very difficult to criticize the consensus as lacking a popular mandate, or lacking legitimacy. Taiwan can not simply hope to benefit from the other side, without thinking of what “Taiwan can do to the mainland (or Chinese)?” Chinese internet users observing the Taiwanese election described it “as if a smell of barbecue coming from the other side of the strait.” China is bound to carry out political reforms, and can learn much from the reform process Taiwan has experienced. This is the special value Taiwan can contribute to the Chinese mainland.

President Ma: Republic of China exists “in the present tense”

President Ma Ying-jeou urged Beijing to acknowledge the existence of the Republic of China on Taiwan and to move toward freedom and democracy. His comment comes a day after his Chinese counterpart called for a China-Taiwan reunification by peaceful means, according to the Central News Agency.

The Republic of China must be referred to “not in the past tense, but in the present tense,” since it has flourished in Taiwan for more than six decades, radiating its vitality to every corner of the earth, and will continue to do so in the future, President Ma said in his centennial National Day (October 10) address in Taipei.

He also called on China to “courageously move” toward becoming a free democracy thereby reducing the gap between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. The Central News Agency reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao said on October 9 that Taiwan and China should heal the wounds of the past and work together.

However, President Ma said that “in commemorating the National Revolution of 1911 and the establishment of the Republic of China thereafter, one must not deliberately cut out certain parts of history, but bring to light the actual facts of history and face the existence of the Republic head-on.”

”And had it not been for the retrocession of Taiwan from Japan to the Republic, the setbacks encountered by Republic of China’s armed forces in the civil war against the Communists on  the mainland might have spelled the death to the Republic more than six decades ago, with no chance for a transformative rebirth or the possibility of developing the two sides along a different trajectories,” he added.

For more than 60 years now, the Republic of China has “safeguarded the viability of Chinese culture” and the Republic of China has proven to the world that “democracy can take root, blossom, and bear fruit in a Chinese society,” the president said.

“Today, as we celebrate the Republic of China’s centennial National Day, we take great pride in the Republic and in Taiwan’s democracy. The vitality and the way of life in Taiwan today have become benchmarks for Chinese communities worldwide.”

President Ma expressed the hope that “Taiwan and mainland China will be able – based on a clear-eyed appreciation and acceptance of reality – to find a common ground,” while respecting differences and building a peaceful relationship.

The president said the Republic of China “is more than the name of a nation; it also stands for a free and democratic way of life, and serves as a model for those living in other ethnic Chinese societies who yearn for freedom and democracy.”

In his 20-minute speech, the president said Taiwan will continue opening up new business opportunities with other countries and economies apart from China, the Central News Agency reported. He described China as Taiwan’s largest trading partner and the largest contributor to Taiwan’s yearly trade surplus.

”We must make wise use of Taiwan’s advantages to expand our presence in the mainland market, and we must accelerate efforts to conclude free trade agreements or economic cooperation pacts with other countries,” he said.

US to enhance Taiwan’s F-16A/B combat power

Even though Taiwan has failed to procure 60 new American F-16C/D fighter planes it had actively sought for years, on September 21, the US government informed Taiwan that it will retrofit Taiwan’s existing 145 F-16A/Bs by enhancing their performance. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has sent the arms sales case to Congress for review, reported the Central News Agency.

President Ma Ying-jeou expressed his appreciation upon hearing of the upgrade to the island’s F-16A/B fighter jets. The action demonstrates US commitment to carry out the Taiwan Relations Act and its concern with maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait, he said.

Though President Ma pointed out that Taiwan will not compete with China in an arms race, he also emphasized that the island will continue in its bid to purchase F-16C/D fighters. Taiwan needs to buy new weapons to replace its aging arsenal and to upgrade its national defense to a level whereby Taipei can be more confident in its negotiations with China. The president stressed that “we have never ignored national defense. Although we want peaceful development with the mainland, Taiwan has never overlooked its security.”

The United Evening News reported the American package for the performance improvement of the F-16A/B includes advanced active electronically scanned array radar (AESA). Taiwan’s Air Force deputy chief of Staff Major General Chu An-nan said, with the assembly of new AESA radar, the upgraded F-16 A/B will enjoy the advantage of significantly increased detection capability. In fact, according to a press release from Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, “when the retrofit is completed, our F-16A/B capability would be equal to 80% of those of the F-16C/Ds” and that some items selected in the retrofit program will have better performance than those of current US Air Force F-16C/Ds.

According to a report from the Taiwan-based Broadcasting Corporation of China in Taiwan, Foreign Minister Timothy Chin-tien Yang stressed that the Taiwan government will not be satisfied with only upgrading its existing F-16A/Bs. The retrofit and the purchase of F-16C/Ds are different cases, he said. Taiwan will continue to negotiate the purchase of the F-16C/D and other defensive weapons.

Raymond Burghardt, chairman of American Institute in Taiwan said that the upcoming F-16A/B aircraft upgrades put them on par with first-class fighter jets. Besides, most of the work will be carried out in Taiwan thus providing employment opportunities there. Burghardt said the total value of the military deal, plus the previous US$6.4 billion American military sales announced in January 2010, will reach US$12 billion. The statistics show that the Obama administration, in office for three years, has already reached 80 percent of the total American arms sales to Taiwan in comparison to the eight-year Bush administration, reported the Taipei-based China Times.

The Department of Defense stressed that the budget for this military procurement will take 12 years to implement.