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Defense minister backs Lai's warning against 'defeatism'

06/17/2024 07:11 PM
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A military drill takes place near the Port of Taipei in New Taipei's Bali District during the annual Han Kuang exercises in July 2023. CNA file photo
A military drill takes place near the Port of Taipei in New Taipei's Bali District during the annual Han Kuang exercises in July 2023. CNA file photo

Taipei, June 17 (CNA) A day after President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) warned against "capitulationism" in a speech to military cadets, Taiwan's defense minister said it was a necessary posture given the country's asymmetrical defensive strategy.

In a speech Sunday at centennial celebrations held at the Republic of China Military Academy in Kaohsiung, Lai warned: "We cannot fail to distinguish between friends and foes, and should never accept a capitulationist attitude of 'the first battle is the final battle.'"

The idea of the "first battle being the last battle" reflects China's strategy for a takeover of Taiwan focused on winning a conflict before the United States could get involved, according to a 2018 assessment of China's military by the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also said China had that strategy in a speech in 2020.

It was unclear, however, why Lai brought up the issue in his speech Sunday.

Defense Minister Wellington Koo (顧立雄) did not explain that either, but said Monday prior to a legislative hearing that Taiwan accepting China's strategy of "the first battle being the last battle" would indeed be "capitulationist."

He said Taiwan could not afford to have such an attitude given its defensive strategy based on deterrence, which he described as being based on asymmetrical thinking to create layers of deterrence and constantly strengthen its self-defense capabilities and determination.

It also involves developing defense tactics in response to the possible actions of the enemy, he said, and over time, the goal would be to gradually weaken the enemy's ability to attack Taiwan and prevent it from achieving its goal of taking over Taiwan.

Minister of National Defense Wellington Koo. CNA photo June 17, 2024
Minister of National Defense Wellington Koo. CNA photo June 17, 2024

Koo also took issue with the criticism of Lai's speech by the foundation of former President Ma.

The foundation said in a statement Sunday that Lai's comments appeared to show that he was inclined to seek war, but what the people need is a president who avoids war, not a president who starts one.

The foundation did not provide any further explanation of its stance.

Koo responded that Taiwan has never sought war with Beijing, and it is the Chinese Communist Party that is the troublemaker in the region.

China is continuing its military expansion and trying to change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait through moves that include imposing threats and carrying out military harassment, he said.

At the celebrations Sunday, Lai also highlighted the importance of defending Taiwan's sovereignty.

"Only with sovereignty, can there be a country, and only with Taiwan, can there be the Republic of China," he said, adding that soldiers are the loyal guardians of the country and must insist that the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China are not subordinate to each other.

(By Matt Yu, Luke Sabatier and Evelyn Kao)

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