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President Tsai attends opening ceremony of 2016 International Symposium on The South China Sea Dispute and Asian Pacific Peace and Security
President Tsai attends opening ceremony of 2016 International Symposium on The South China Sea Dispute and Asian Pacific Peace and Security

On October 8, President Tsai Ing-wen proceeded to the National Taiwan University Hospital International Convention Center to attend the opening ceremony of the 2016 International Symposium on The South China Sea Dispute and Asian Pacific Peace and Security, where she outlined her administration's efforts and undertakings in the areas of external relations, cross-strait relations, and Taiwan's international participation.

The following is a translation of the president's remarks:

I'm very happy to be here once again at a conference held by the Taiwan National Security Institute to join in deliberations on Asia-Pacific regional security. The distinguished guests here have all worked for many long years for the good of Taiwan. Some of you are from abroad, and you are Taiwan's most important international friends.

All of you have long been working in your respective specialties to benefit Taiwan and speak up on our behalf. I feel it is very meaningful that I can be here with all of you to put our heads together on the issue of Asia-Pacific regional security, which has a big impact on the development of Taiwan.

Unlike before, I come here this year in my capacity as president, which shows the great importance that Taiwan attaches to Asia-Pacific regional security. I'm very happy to see so many friends here in attendance.

Today's proceedings focus on several key topics. In addition to the impact of the South China Sea dispute, a lot of attention will also be paid to Taiwan's external relations, especially its relations with the United States, Japan, and mainland China. Therefore I would like to speak to you about the international strategic situation that the new administration has been facing since I became president.

Not long after I took office, we led a delegation on a visit to two of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, adopting a new foreign relations strategy characterized by "steadfast diplomacy based on building mutually beneficial relationships." The purpose of a state visit was, of course, to consolidate ties with diplomatic allies. However, there was a deeper significance to the fact that I, as a popularly elected president, personally led a delegation overseas.

In embarking upon that trip, we hoped to tell the world that the 23 million people of Taiwan have a great dedication to and love for democracy, freedom, and human rights. We also wanted to enhance friendships with our partners around the world on the basis of shared values, and to establish substantive cooperative relations.

This is what the new administration is working to achieve in its external relations. We also hope to use steadfast means to establish sincere friendships with friends around the world who share our commitment to the values of democracy and freedom. At the same time, we also want to expand Taiwan's links with the rest of the world, and to bolster our mutually beneficial relations.

To use the jargon of international relations, we attach great importance to the question of how to develop interdependent relationships with other countries. In terms of market logic, wherever markets or economies are complementary, we will seek to develop interdependent relationships. Over the past few months, we've been taking this approach in our talks with other countries. We start from shared interests and develop substantive relations.

Of course, there are a lot of difficulties to overcome with respect to our external relations and international participation. One clear example is our recent setback at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Despite this setback to our international participation, however, because of our efforts, and because of our substantive importance within the international community, the United States, Europe, Japan, and our diplomatic allies have all expressed support for us in one form or another.

Even when we are prevented from taking part in a particular organization or activity, our efforts to do so are still meaningful, for the advances we achieve build up over time and become the foundation of eventual success. Therefore, in addition to winning the support of more countries, we also need to do everything we can to contribute to the international community and make the world see the importance of Taiwan's existence.

Taiwan is an example of successful economic development, and our democratic accomplishments stand as a model for Asia. The point of our government's efforts is to make the world aware of Taiwan's importance. We want the world to see and understand that Taiwan is not to be overlooked.

Included among our efforts, of course, are the things we've been doing to address cross-strait relations. Taiwan is a democratic society. Maintaining the status quo is the choice of the people of Taiwan; it's not my personal choice. I want to stress once again that we already made a strong gesture of goodwill in my inaugural address of May 20. Our fundamental position is that our pledges will not change, and our goodwill will not change, but we will not bow to pressure. At the same time, we have no wish, willingness, or intention to revert to the old path of confrontation.

The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should sit down for talks as soon as possible and improve communication between the two sides, so that we can avoid needless misunderstandings. We need to find mutually acceptable resolutions to the various problems we face. Cross-strait peace and stability is one of the keys to Asia-Pacific regional security. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait have a responsibility to do everything possible to remain rational and calm.

In our external relations, we hope to engage proactively with the rest of the world. Domestically, the Taiwan society is in bad shape and needs to be rebuilt. In the months since the new administration came to power, everyone has seen the problems we face, and has watched as we've taken the lid off of one pressure cooker after another. And of course we face opposition in our quest for reform. At the same time, given the governing environment and social climate in which we find ourselves, we must responsibly face the many structural problems that have long been building up. These problems are now intricately intertwined, so the deep social transformation that we need is not going to be achieved in a single step.

However, I am very aware that the people have been waiting for eight years and our society very much wants change to come quickly. Therein lies the challenge facing the new government: major reform takes time, but society is getting more and more impatient.

But no matter how great the pressure of our society's expectations, or how strong the backlash against our reform initiatives, as president I will absolutely take up this fight. The people have elected us to push for reform, so we must respond to public opinion with faster, steadier and more precise policy decisions. The path of reform is very difficult, but if the people of Taiwan will only unite, we can overcome any difficulty. We fought successfully for democracy and consigned authoritarianism to the history books. Now, we need steady reform to build a just, prosperous, and secure Taiwan.

In the past, all of you have worked hard for Taiwan. Now, I want to ask you to help us out again. I want everyone to unify for Taiwan, reform for Taiwan, and fight for Taiwan. I ask everyone to stand with me and together strive one more time for Taiwan's sake.

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