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ELECTION 2024/Stable U.S. relations key to opening communications with China: TPP's Ko

01/12/2024 02:35 PM
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Taiwan People's Party presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (left) and his running mate Wu Hsin-ying at a press conference exclusively for foreign media reporters in Taipei Friday. Photo courtesy of TPP Jan. 12, 2023
Taiwan People's Party presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (left) and his running mate Wu Hsin-ying at a press conference exclusively for foreign media reporters in Taipei Friday. Photo courtesy of TPP Jan. 12, 2023

Taipei, Jan. 12 (CNA) Taiwan People's Party (TPP) presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said Friday that if elected, he would first ensure that Taiwan's relationship with the United States remains solid before attempting to open communications with China.

At a press conference exclusively for foreign media reporters, Ko was questioned extensively about the strained cross-Taiwan Strait relations and how he would navigate that situation alongside Taiwan's ties with the U.S., if he is elected.

In response, Ko said the U.S. is Taiwan's most important ally and also the most powerful country in the world at present.

"We will definitely maintain a solid relationship between Taiwan and the U.S., and on that foundation, we will be open to starting communications with China," he said at the press event, which was live streamed on YouTube.

On numerous fronts, the TPP's approach will involve prioritizing seamless communications with the U.S. to prevent any unexpected developments, thereby establishing a foundation of mutual trust, he said.

Meanwhile, Ko said, he will work with Beijing whenever the opportunity for cooperation arises and will compete with China when necessary, as part of his strategy to navigate the currently tense cross-strait relations.

Repeating one of his talking points on the campaign trial, Ko said the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has a "tendency to confront Beijing even in cooperative scenarios," while the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) seeks cooperation with China even when the situation requires confrontation.

Generally, Ko said, Taiwan should express its willingness to engage in communications with China, while maintaining a non-negotiable stance on the preservation of its free and democratic political system and way of life

Ko further said that no one should depend solely on the goodwill of another country for their security, as part of his response to a CBS reporter's question on whether he thought he could alter Chinese President Xi Jinping's (習近平) objective of China's unification with Taiwan.

"Taiwan must have the capacity to protect itself," and as such, must prioritize "deterrence and communication" in its policy towards Beijing, Ko said.

"If it comes to a military confrontation, Taiwan will be no match for the mainland," he said. "However, Taiwan must make it very clear to China that 'if you choose to engage in conflict, you will have to pay a hefty price.'"

Elaborating on his national defense policies, Ko said he would seek to increase Taiwan's defense budget to 3 percent of its gross domestic product, above the record 2.5 percent the current government has proposed in its 2024 budget.

Taiwan, which has an electorate of 19.55 million, will hold its four-yearly presidential and legislative elections on Saturday, with voters casting their ballots for a new president, vice president and 113 legislators.

With the incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) nearing the end of her maximum two terms in office, Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) is leading the DPP presidential ticket, facing off against the TPP's Ko and the KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih (侯友宜).

(By Chung Yu-chen)

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