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DEFENSE/Ukraine NGO urges Taiwanese to invest in self-defense

05/22/2024 07:17 PM
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CNA photo May 22, 2024
CNA photo May 22, 2024

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) A Ukrainian NGO representative on Wednesday called on Taiwanese to be prepared to defend themselves against China, while noting that the key to effective civil defense efforts is collaboration between the public and private sectors.

"Rely on yourselves" in defending Taiwan against potential aggression from China, Mariia Makarovych, head of the Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine's East Asian office, told a forum in Taipei.

She cautioned Taiwanese against expecting the United States to send troops or anticipating prompt international support in the event of a Chinese invasion.

She used the example of her country, Ukraine, which also considers the U.S. its biggest ally in its fight against Russia but had to wait months to receive urgently needed military aid.

While collaborating with international partners is important for Taiwan's security, "physical presence on the battlefield and protecting your country [remains] the responsibility of people who are living in this country," she added.

She went on to say that even though civil society has an important role to play in civil defense efforts, the state's involvement in the process is crucial.

The private sector and the government should be "partners" and together work out ways to recruit and train civilians effectively so they can contribute to the military during times of war, she said.

Such collaborations can also be expanded to combat propaganda inside and outside Taiwan, with the aim of sowing division in Taiwanese society and compromising global support for Taiwan, she added.

According to Makarovych, Taiwanese authorities and NGOs working to promote civil defense tend to put much emphasis on disaster prevention and be deliberately light on war preparedness.

She said society must be aware that "this threat is real" in order to take effective steps to level up the country's security, noting that "mentally and physically unprepared people are vulnerable."

Her comments were made at the Global Leaders Forum organized in Taipei from Tuesday to Wednesday during a panel discussion titled, "the regionalization of conflict: China's influence and Taiwan's response."

American scholar Julia Famularo said during the discussion whether or when China takes military action against Taiwan is hard to predict, but China's President Xi Jinping (習近平) appears "more impatient than his predecessors" at looking to bring Taiwan under control.

Famularo, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University in Taiwan studies, observed that Beijing's military pressure campaign against Taiwan has "remain[ed] below the threshold of conflict."

However, China is attempting to exercise the technical skills necessary to potentially implement blockades of Taiwan using its Coast Guard and Maritime Safety Administration, she said.

Those Chinese law enforcement operations, also present in the South China Sea, not only undermine Taiwan's sovereignty but also have implications for international maritime law, she added.

In the face of Chinese pressure, Makarovych also proposed Taiwan not "do business with countries that do not recognize your right to existence," noting that economic ties with China might seem beneficial at the beginning, but they will eventually be turned against Taiwan.

Ukraine has learnt this the hard way, she said, adding that economic integration between Russia and Ukraine proved "harmful" for the East European country.

A civil defense exercise held by the Taipei City Government on May 4, 2023. CNA file photo
A civil defense exercise held by the Taipei City Government on May 4, 2023. CNA file photo

China can allocate the profits gained from its business dealings with Taiwan to bolster its military capabilities, and leverage such bilateral economic ties to undermine Taiwan's efforts to demonstrate internationally its commitment to self-defense, she added.

Nearly 30 speakers from five countries were invited to the two-day event organized by Kuma Academy, which is dedicated to promoting civil defense awareness in Taiwan, according to the organization.

(By Teng Pei-ju)

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