President Ma Ying-jeou met on the afternoon of December 3 with National Commander of the American Legion Daniel M. Dellinger and Mrs. Dellinger, and National President of the American Legion Auxiliary Nancy Brown-Park. In addition to recognizing the important role that veterans have played in the nation's development, the president also briefed his visitors on recent progress in relations between the ROC and the United States.
In remarks, President Ma first noted that the American Legion is the largest veterans organization in the United States. Including the American Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of The American Legion, worldwide membership currently exceeds 2.4 million, he said. The president noted that the organization's 49th chapter is in Taipei, which highlights the considerable importance of the American Legion both at home and abroad.
President Ma stated that the Executive Yuan's Veterans Affairs Council is each year invited to the annual assembly of the American Legion. The two sides maintain close ties, and the president said he is confident that under the leadership of US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, as well as the efforts of the ranking leadership of the American Legion, the organization can undoubtedly fulfill its function and ensure the interests of its membership.
As for advances in relations between Taiwan and the United States, President Ma stated, upon taking office in 2008 he actively sought to improve Taiwan's relationship with the United States and that substantive results have been seen. For instance, he said, the United States has sold a total of US$18.3 billion worth of arms to Taiwan over this period, while last year the United States formally included Taiwan in its Visa Waiver Program. The president noted that the bilateral relationship is now even closer than prior to the severing of diplomatic ties in 1979.
President Ma further commented that the United States views Taiwan as an important partner in the areas of security and economic relations. He said the two sides maintain broad interaction in military affairs and technology, and the United States has helped Taiwan participate in a number of international organizations and activities, including the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's Economic Leaders' Week activities. The president said the government and people of the ROC will always appreciate this assistance.
President Ma also stated that Taiwan has already accepted delivery of six AH-64E Apache helicopters from the United States and that this marks the first time that the United States has supplied attack helicopters for active duty in the ROC Army. The president said that he would soon attend a ceremony to mark the delivery of the helicopters, adding that this is further testament to the close and cooperative relationship between the two sides.
President Ma briefed the visitors on the government's efforts to institute an all-volunteer military system. He expressed hope that Taiwan can learn from the successful experience of the United States in this regard, and called for stronger bilateral cooperation and ties to add further depth to the relationship.