Thank you, and hello Washington, DC. Good morning from Taipei!
Rich, thank you for your kind introduction just now. It is such a privilege to address this conference, opened by Dr. Hamre. I want to thank CSIS, the Brookings Institution, and the Wilson Center, as well as Bonnie, Richard, and Abe, for organizing this event.
It is a pleasure to see many friends of Taiwan, including Michael Green, and Chairman Jim Moriarty, in the audience.
Here in Taipei, the clock will soon turn to April 10th. On this day 40 years ago, the Taiwan Relations Act was enacted, opening a new chapter in Taiwan-US relations.
The momentous events that led to the swift passage of the TRA 40 years ago marked a difficult time in Taiwan’s history. Many, both in the United States and here in Taiwan, were not optimistic about Taiwan’s future—or not clear as to whether that future could remain distinct from that of across the Strait.
Few could have imagined that the foresight and friendship shown by the drafters of the TRA would eventually allow this relationship to blossom again, this time based on our shared values.
And few could have imagined that the Taiwan-US partnership would become stronger than ever, and a force for good across the world.
With the US Congress’s steadfast support, the enactment of the TRA set out the guiding principles defining how the US engages with Taiwan, and honours our past agreements. The TRA also established the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Today, there is no question that AIT, which is about to move into its new home in Neihu, has withstood the test of time.
By insisting on language that assures Taiwan’s security, Congress made sure that Taiwan would survive its darkest hour, and have the opportunity to transform itself into the free society and robust democracy we are today.
What the TRA also reflects, is the United States’ commitment to our shared interests of peace, security, and stability in the Pacific. It has supported Taiwan’s development of the defence capabilities that we need, in order to resist any form of coercion.
And this commitment and support has been honoured by successive administrations and the US Congress.
It featured prominently in March 1996, when the Clinton administration sent two aircraft carriers to sail through the waters near Taiwan to stop China’s attempts to disrupt Taiwan’s first direct presidential election. At that historic moment, the US stood with Taiwan, showing the world its commitment to our shared democratic values.
And the people of Taiwan responded in kind, showing the world our resolve to exercise our right to vote, a fundamental democratic process, proving that we were capable of joining a global community of free and democratic nations.
So in 1996, our democracy took a big step forward. And twenty years later, Taiwan is one of the freest countries in the world, and the people of Taiwan elected their first female president.
With the benefit of hindsight from forty years of experience, I trust that everyone here today agrees that the TRA has helped create a force for good, and laid the foundations for Taiwan to become a beacon of democracy in the world.
Taiwan survived the challenges posed to us by history. We were not defeated. We are an island of resilience. And we have been working tirelessly to contribute to a brighter tomorrow for our region, and the world as well.
Today, at this conference, we commemorate the achievements of the TRA, but we should also recommit ourselves to our shared values, and common sense of purpose.
Foremost among them is ensuring that our global partnerships remain strong, particularly the special bond between Taiwan and the United States.
Over the past three years, we have made significant progress in advancing this relationship.
In terms of security, the TRA laid out a framework to not only “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character,” but also “to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.”
Cooperation between our two countries has continued to fulfill the spirit of these articles. Already, a steady drumbeat of arms sales have been announced by the current US administration, and we have more in the pipeline.
The US has also continued to support the development of indigenous capabilities that we are capable of building here in Taiwan. And right now, the training and cooperation between our two countries could not be closer or more robust.
But all of this only works when Taiwan is capable and determined to defend ourselves. We can’t expect others to do what we are not willing to do by ourselves. So since 2016, part of my primary goals is to strengthen our defense capabilities.
Already, we have increased our defense budget over the past two years in a row. These funds will go into strategies, techniques, and capabilities that make our fighting force more nimble, agile, and survivable. These ideas are encompassed by the Overall Defense Concept, which has my support, one hundred percent.