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President Tsai convenes high-level national security meeting ahead of the Lunar New Year
President Tsai convenes high-level national security meeting ahead of the Lunar New Year

On the morning of February 9, President Tsai Ing-wen delivered remarks in the Entrance Hall of the Presidential Office Building on Taiwan's response to the global pandemic and other regional and international issues covered in a high-level national security meeting convened earlier that morning.

A translation of the president's remarks is as follows:

Though the Lunar New Year holiday starts tomorrow, the work of protecting our nation does not cease. We convened a special high-level national security meeting ahead of the holiday to coordinate our responses to a range of developing international and regional issues, including Taiwan-US relations, regional security, and the global pandemic.

Our national security team will continue to safeguard our nation during the Lunar New Year, so my fellow citizens can enjoy peace of mind while resting and recharging for the year ahead.

Let me now share the four major conclusions reached at today's meeting.

First, Taiwan-US relations remain stable, and have not been affected by the transition to a new administration in the US.

The Taiwan-US relationship has continued to strengthen since President Biden took office. You all know from news reports that our Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) was invited to President Biden's inauguration, and that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin both pledged during their Senate confirmation hearings to uphold the US commitment to Taiwan's defense. This all shows that the transition of power in the US will not affect our bilateral cooperation.

We are also aware that US military aircraft and vessels have conducted a number of freedom of navigation operations recently, which indicates a very clear US stance toward any challenge to the peaceful status quo in the Indo-Pacific region.

I have asked our national security team to continue to maintain close and open communication with the new US administration, Congress, and both major parties, as well as with institutions and individuals across various sectors. In a changing situation, we need to be able to seize the initiative and respond quickly and effectively to new developments while also enhancing our bilateral cooperation across the board. Dialogue on economic and trade strategy is particularly important.

Second, peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is no longer just a matter of cross-strait relations; it has been elevated to a key regional and global interest. We remain in close contact with relevant countries on this issue, and I ask my fellow citizens to be confident in Taiwan's security.

Over the past year, military aircraft and vessels from across the strait have been increasingly active in the waters and airspace around Taiwan, and have even intruded into our Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). These actions undermine the peaceful and stable status quo in the Indo-Pacific region.

Faced with an evolving regional situation, we will continue to enhance our self-defense capabilities in order to respond to new military challenges.

At the same time, we will spare no effort in using dialogue and cooperation with all countries to uphold the regional status quo of peace and prosperity.

I want to reaffirm Taiwan's consistent position on cross-strait relations: we neither bow to pressure nor act rashly when we have support. We look forward to people from both sides of the strait resuming normal, orderly exchanges once the pandemic has been effectively contained.

As long as the Beijing authorities sincerely want to resolve differences, we are willing to facilitate meaningful dialogue based on the principles of parity and dignity.

But I also want to remind everyone that Taiwan is not solely responsible for cross-strait peace. Indeed, China holds the key. History has shown that China's diplomatic offensives and military coercion against Taiwan do nothing to promote positive cross-strait relations.

As we celebrate this traditional holiday shared among ethnic Chinese communities worldwide, we wish people on the other side of the strait the best of health for the New Year, and hope that in the future we can promote cross-strait peace and stability together.

Third, the global pandemic is still severe. But we have made substantial progress in obtaining vaccines, so there is no need to be overly concerned.

Yesterday our Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that we are in the process of securing about 200,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Having held extensive meetings over the past few days, government agencies are adopting a two-track method to obtain further vaccine doses. We will purchase doses from multiple external sources while also developing domestic vaccines in order to obtain sufficient vaccine coverage.

Though I cannot provide details at this stage, I can tell you that the amount of vaccine doses and the distribution are being planned, so please don't worry.

Fourth, with respect to the risk posed by the Nipah virus, I have instructed the Ministry of Health and Welfare as well as the Council of Agriculture to be on the alert and prepare in advance for possible new epidemics. I know that our experience fighting COVID-19 over the past year can help us respond appropriately to crises and overcome challenges.

This ongoing pandemic poses an unprecedented threat to our daily lives and to the economy. Now, reports of the Nipah virus suggest that we may face many more challenges from novel viruses in the future.

I have directed Vice President Lai Ching-te and former Vice President Chen Chien-jen to jointly lead a project to study and assess potential future viruses and how epidemics might develop, as well as to provide the government with guidance for early deployment under assistance from Academia Sinica and the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI).

In closing, before the Lunar New Year holiday begins, I want to offer a special thanks to all of my colleagues who will be on duty this holiday, and to once again remind my fellow citizens to wash their hands often, wear a mask, and do their utmost to prevent the spread of disease. Let's all come together to contain the virus and have a great holiday. I also want to wish one and all a very Happy New Year. Thank you.

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