Former Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮),
Prospect Foundation Chairman Mark Chen (陳唐山) ,
Foreign Minister David T. Lee (李大維),
Ladies and gentlemen:
Before I begin, I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to the former Vice President of the United States, Mr. Dick Cheney. Could we all give him a round of applause?
Few people may remember this, but back in 1979, having just been elected as a young congressman from Wyoming, Mr. Cheney cast an important vote in favor of the Taiwan Relations Act.
This Act has not only endured, but is today one of the most critical pieces of legislation shaping U.S. relations with Taiwan. It is therefore particularly meaningful to be able to meet Mr. Cheney here, in a democracy that might not have been possible without his prior support.
The Taiwan Relations Act is a good reminder of how actions can have profound consequences.
The sense of collective security it created contributed to the development of freedom and democracy in Taiwan. It provided Taiwan with the confidence to choose its own path and play a more proactive role in the region. It also formed the basis of the remarkable relationship we have today with the United States.
Similarly, we must acknowledge that the actions we take today will shape the development of the region in the decades to come.
For the past half-century, the Asia Pacific has witnessed unprecedented economic growth and advancement. Countries that were once in need of foreign aid, such as Taiwan, have become prosperous at a speed unprecedented in human history.
But as countries become more affluent, they must also deal with emerging challenges and new responsibilities.
Today, regional tensions are intensifying. Growing political differences have narrowed the space for deliberation and compromise.
Even the technology which has connected and empowered billions around the world, has given rise to new threats in cybersecurity and cyber warfare. It has allowed false information to proliferate around society, causing alarm and undermining people's trust in government.
All of this has led countries to reassess their path forward. So today, I want to briefly share with you the decisions Taiwan has made to ensure that we continue to be a contributor to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.
The first is recognition that in an interconnected world, Taiwan must play an even more proactive role in the region to help shape its growth.
Over the decades, we've seen countries across the Asia Pacific increasingly look towards one another to build stronger trade, defense, and people-to-people relations. ASEAN, now in its 50th year, exemplifies this. So are the growing linkages between Japan and South Asia, as well as Southeast Asia, which have seen tremendous progress over the past few years.
Our "New Southbound Policy" acknowledges that Taiwan cannot idly sit on the sidelines as this process takes place.
The policy is not just about encouraging short-term trade and investments. It is about looking at the longer-term needs, whether in terms of talent cultivation or complementarity in trade, in order to make investments that are both smart and relevant.
For example, we have expanded Taiwan's capacity to train the human resources needed for emerging countries. Already, around 1,200 Indian students are currently studying in the country, while about 5,000 students from New Southbound Policy countries will receive sponsorships from Taiwan enterprises to attend local educational institutions this year. All together, we now have about 31,500 students from New Southbound Policy countries studying in Taiwan today.
On the development of markets, Taiwan has the know-how – particularly our Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) – to help countries take advantage of new opportunities and unlock market potentials.
We have also announced policies and taken measures, from relaxing visa restrictions to creating a more Muslim-friendly environment. This has already led to enormous growth in tourism; and it will further consolidate the robust linkages between the people of Taiwan and the New Southbound countries.
All of these efforts not only strengthen Taiwan's relations with its neighbors, but they also help ensure Taiwan's role in a growing Asia Pacific community.
We have also focused on building stronger relations with the U.S., Japan, and other like-minded countries that have been long-term stakeholders in peace and stability in the region.
We have actively sought out new exchanges in trade and investment, security, cybersecurity, global health, green energy, and other areas of mutual interest. This has led to an increase in both the number and substance of discussions in forums such as today.
We will also continue to actively promote trade and investment through both bilateral and multilateral arrangements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite the exit of the United States, is still one of the priorities for Taiwan.
While we are doing all of this to serve Taiwan's strategic interests, we also believe that the international community benefits when Taiwan and our values feature more prominently around the world.
Now, turning to the issue of security, we believe maintaining a regional order benefits all the countries in the region. Therefore, when the security and order of the region are under threat, Taiwan shares a responsibility to uphold the existing framework.
This is particularly important at a time when international efforts to resolve the North Korean crisis have failed to produce results.
Taiwan has helped implement economic sanctions on North Korea as a responsible member of the international community. The government here has stepped up investigations into money laundering and shipments going to North Korea.
In short, we are committed to working with our partners on a coordinated response to the instability in the Korean peninsula.
The South China Sea is another flashpoint that has the potential to embroil countries in a regional conflict.
Taiwan has control over Taiping Island, the largest natural island in the South China Sea. Five other countries also hold competing claims in the area, a situation that makes any amicable solution difficult and highly unlikely.
But instead of using Taiping Island as a base for expansion and aggression, Taiwan will continue to use it for research and humanitarian purposes. For example, last November, our Coast Guard staged a humanitarian rescue exercise to strengthen its capabilities in medical evacuation and maritime search and rescue efforts. We have also invited scientists from across the region to engage in marine and climate-based research at the facilities on Taiping Island.
Despite our exclusion from the South China Sea regional dialogue, Taiwan will nevertheless continue to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.
The third issue I would like to talk about is cross-strait relations. We recognize the continued interest the international community, as well as both sides of the Taiwan Strait, have in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations.
My administration remains fully committed to maintaining the status quo. However, this cannot be achieved by just one side alone. It takes goodwill and cooperation from both sides, while keeping in mind our shared interests in prosperity and regional development.
We hope that both sides of the Taiwan Strait can work on a new model for cross-strait interactions that benefit the stability and prosperity of both sides and the region as a whole.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that Taiwan's location at the crossroads between Northeast and Southeast Asia, and between continental Asia and the Pacific Ocean, dictates that Taiwan will always have a role in the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.
Taiwan is fully committed to this role. This commitment is based on our belief in democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. It is also based on the acknowledgement that growth and prosperity cannot take place in an unstable and insecure region.
With this in mind, I hope that the actions and policies we are taking will reinforce Taiwan's relations with its neighbors and the international community in the decades to come.
I trust that as we engage in critical discussions today, this event will foster the debates and ideas to collectively further the Asia-Pacific's security, stability, and prosperity in the future.
Finally, I wish the forum every success and our distinguished guests a lovely stay in Taiwan.