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Taiwan must 'prepare for war' but seek dialogue with China: TPP chairman

04/21/2023 07:39 PM
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Taiwan People's Party Chairman Ko Wen-je (right), at an event hosted in Washington, D.C. by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. CNA photo April 21, 2023

Washington, April 20 (CNA) Taiwan must "prepare [itself] for war" while seeking dialogue with China to try to reduce the risk of war in the Taiwan Strait, Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), chairman of the Taiwan People's Party (TPP), told a think tank event on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

"Our stance is that we should prepare for war so that we will not be afraid of one," Ko, who served as Taipei mayor from 2014-2022, said of the TPP's approach to cross-strait relations.

"Even with enough combat capability, we will not seek war," he said at the event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"The Taiwan People's Party does not seek war, nor does it fear to fight one," Ko said. On the other hand, he added, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is "seeking war" with China and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) is "afraid" to fight one.

The former Taipei mayor who has expressed his intention to run in the 2024 presidential election is currently on a three-week tour of the United States to "introduce the TPP and myself to American society," he said.

Throughout his talk at the CSIS, Ko has sought to position the TPP, which he founded in 2019 shortly after winning reelection in the Taipei mayoral race, as a party that stands on the middle ground between the DPP and the KMT in terms of relations with China.

He described the KMT as being "too submissive" in the face of an increasingly assertive Beijing, while criticizing the DPP for refusing to patch up strained cross-strait relations.

Taipei and Beijing should resume their dialogue mechanisms, as part of efforts to reduce the risk of war in the Taiwan Strait, Ko said, adding that finding solutions to disputes should start with talks.

However, he did not answer questions as to how he planned to occupy such middle ground, saying only he had had experience dealing with Chinese officials.

Ko specifically mentioned the Taipei City government's hosting of the Shanghai-Taipei City Forum -- an annual event initiated by Ko's KMT predecessor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to promote city government-level and civilian exchanges -- and the FISU World University Games in 2017.

Nor did Ko said whether he would accept or reject the so-called "1992 consensus" in order to engage in dialogue with Beijing, saying the term itself had been "stigmatized" in Taiwanese society.

"If a patient is allergic to penicillin, do you insist on giving them penicillin?" the doctor-turned politician said, comparing the general public perception of the 1992 consensus in Taiwan to a patient showing a negative reaction to antibiotics.

Ko said he had relayed his concern about the 1992 consensus to Chinese officials, adding that he would try to talk Beijing into abandoning any preconditions for dialogue with Taipei.

According to Ko, Beijing has insisted on imposing such precondition as a way to avoid dialogue with the DPP.

"Deep down in the heart of the Beijing government, it has no desire to talk with the DPP, and therefore it set the criteria in the beginning," he said. "It [Beijing] knows clearly that the DPP government will not accept the 1992 consensus."

According to the KMT, the 1992 consensus, reached at a 1992 meeting between the then-KMT government and its Chinese counterpart, refers to a tacit understanding that both sides recognize there is only "one China," with each having its own interpretation of what China means.

However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT interpretation.

In addition, the term, 1992 consensus, was only coined by former Mainland Affairs Council Minister Su Chi (蘇起) in 2000 before the KMT government handed over power to the DPP.

The DPP rejects the 1992 consensus. It has argued that Beijing has never acknowledged the existence of the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, and that agreeing to the 1992 consensus implies acceptance of China's claim over Taiwan.

Speaking about Taiwan's relations with the U.S., Ko said Washington "remains the most important ally" and the biggest security partner for Taiwan.

He stressed that his goal was not to keep Taiwan's relations with the U.S. and its relations with China at equal distances, but was rather to achieve a "dynamic equilibrium."

Without specifying what that means, Ko said the U.S. remains stronger than China, and therefore Taipei would tilt toward Washington.

At the same time, Ko said, Beijing has itself to blame for pushing Taiwan toward the U.S. by frequently sending military aircraft near to Taiwan as an act of intimidation.

"Under this circumstance, the people of Taiwan have no choice but to increasingly side with the Americans," he added.

He observed that Taipei's relations with Washington had always been good, and that if he were to take power next year, he would "just keep the good things going."

(By Teng Pei-ju)


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