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Taiwan urges signing of MOU with US to combat disinformation

2019/10/16 15:44:05

Vincent Chen (陳文凡)

Washington, Oct. 15 (CNA) Taiwan's deputy National Security Council (NSC) chief on Tuesday called on the United States to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with his country as part of a joint effort to combat disinformation.

Discussing China's influence operations against Taiwan at a U.S. conference, Vincent Chen (陳文凡) said Beijing has attempted to influence Taiwan's major elections for years.

Citing NSC intelligence, Chen said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established a multi-departmental task force in late 2017 to evaluate election related action in the run up to Taiwan's November 2018 local government elections when Taiwanese voted for 22 top jobs in the nation's special municipalities, counties and cities.

In those elections the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was heavily defeated.

The CCP is now doing the same thing before Taiwan holds presidential and legislative elections in January 2020, Chen said.

The CCP is hoping to influence Taiwan by "financing pro-China parties, supporting mainland spouse groups, aboriginal talk show hosts and website writers," Chen claimed.

Beijing is also using social media, pro-China news media and internet celebrities in Taiwan to spread its message, he added.

In addition, in the run up to the January election, the CCP could poach another one or two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies; mobilize Taiwanese businessmen in mainland China and overseas pro-China voters to return to Taiwan to vote; and undertake more military intimidation.

Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming elections, the NSC deputy said China will continue to tighten the screws against Taiwan, diplomatically, economically and militarily.

He suggested that Taiwan, the U.S. and other like-minded countries should form a cyber security alliance aimed at combating disinformation.

"The objective of this alliance is to safeguard freedom of speech and to explore regulation of internet activities," he said.

The U.S. and Taiwan should also consider signing a joint MOU on combating disinformation as "Taiwan is the real time combat zone," he said at the conference organized by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research institute.

Asked to comment on whether such a deal is possible, Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, who attended the same conference, said he could not comment on possible future agreements between the two sides.

He did acknowledge, however, that both Taipei and Washington have shared concerns in the area and both would benefit from understanding each other's best practices in the matter.

"We know this is an issue of concern related to the upcoming Taiwan election. We will have our own election shortly following that so I think we need to engage on this and learn from one another's best practices," he said.

Asked about Taiwan's role in the U.S. Indo Pacific strategy, the senior U.S. official in charge of security affairs in the Indo-Pacific region said Taiwan faces an immediate threat from China that comes in a variety of forms.

These threats include "diplomatic pressure, the use of economic coercion, military pressure through more robust exercises and training that is clearly designed to intimidate Taiwan," he said.

Taiwan's primary role in promoting a free and open Indo Pacific is really protecting itself and ensuring a democratic people can preserve their status and their ability to decide the future for themselves and then beyond that think of ways to contribute to those principles in the region, he added.

Meanwhile, Schriver, who last week concluded a visit to China, Vietnam and Japan, said Beijing raised the Taiwan issue during his meeting with senior officials, especially its concern that the U.S. is selling more advanced weapons to Taiwan, including the F-16 C/Ds Washington announced in August.

"I simply reiterated that our position remains the same related to the implementation of Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)," he said.

The Chinese side, with its military modernization and increasing threats targeting Taiwan, has only itself to blame for the U.S. continuing to honor the TRA and provide weapon system for Taiwan's self-defense, he said.

The TRA was signed in April 1979 by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a few months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

The TRA provides a legal basis for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan and enshrines in law the U.S. commitment to helping Taiwan maintain its self-defense capability.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh, Stacy Hsu and Joseph Yeh)
Enditem/AW