Transcript: Post's interview with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou

Thursday, February 17, 2011; 9:30 AM

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on Thursday pressed his case for continued American weapons sales to the island, including advanced U.S.-made fighter jets, saying Taiwan needs to negotiate with China from a position of strength. Ma, in an interview, said Taiwan needed both new F-16C/D fighter jets to modernize its fleet, and also upgrades to its existing F-16A/B class fighters, which are aging and in need of replacement parts. The Pentagon is still studying the request. What follows is a transcript of Ma's interview with The Washington Post. The transcript was compiled by the Taiwanese government.

Q1. Washington Post: So the first question I wanted to ask you is simply to assess how relations are across the Strait. I mean, since you've been President in 2008, there have been so many huge changes. And I was able to fly here direct from Beijing, for example. And you've got the new economic cooperation agreement, but at the same time, there are still questions about buying new weapon systems from the United States; you're developing your own missile system here. So just how would you assess overall the relationship with China?

President Ma: When I took office two years and nine months ago, our objective of improving cross-strait relations was to pursue peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait. From the experience of the past two years and nine months, now we have basically allowed both sides of the Strait to maintain the current state of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force" while they pursue the goals of peace and prosperity. At the same time, we have been able to promote development of the cross-strait relationship based on the principles of parity and dignity. We feel that the current situation is the most stable of any time in 60 years.

Q2. Washington Post: Just to continue that, since the relations are good, and everybody on both sides agrees to that, why, for example, are you still developing your own missile system? And why are you still requesting the new F-16C/Ds from the United States? Shouldn't this be a time to be decreasing missile weapons?

President Ma: Our objective in improving cross-strait relations is to seek peace and prosperity. However, the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign state; we must have our national defense. While we negotiate with the mainland, we hope to carry out such talks with sufficient self-defense capabilities and not negotiate out of fear. This is an extremely important principle. Therefore, we must purchase the necessary defensive weapons from overseas that cannot be manufactured here in Taiwan to replace outdated ones. This is essential for our national survival and development.

As I just said, the current state of cross-strait relations is "no unification, no independence and no use of force." We oppose the use of military force to resolve cross-strait disputes. However, this is not to say that we cannot maintain a military capability necessary for Taiwan's security.

Q3. Washington Post: Can I ask you, just to continue about the military systems, I mean, you made a request for the F-16 C/Ds. As far as I know, there hasn't been a response yet. What do you know about that, and would you be willing to accept something else, like a modification of the F-16 A/Bs that you now have?

President Ma: In fact, we have sought to acquire F-16/C/D fighter jets from the United States for quite a few years. The Americans keep telling us that it is under assessment, but no decision has been forthcoming.

As for the other part, some of the equipment on the F-16A/B jet fighters owned by our Air Force is gradually aging and needs to be updated. Thus, we consider these two needs to be complementary and not mutually conflicting. We hope that, through these two strenuous efforts, Taiwan's Air Force can maintain a certain defensive and fighting capability.

Q4. Washington Post: As you know, President Hu Jintao was just in Washington, and the Chinese always make these weapons sales a huge issue. U.S.-China relations get going well, and then there's a weapons sale to Taiwan, and then they go back to being soured again. Are you worried that the Americans may be more interested now in keeping good relations with China as they start to consider this weapons package?

President Ma: In fact, ever since the United States established formal diplomatic ties with the mainland China, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have always been an issue between the U.S. and mainland in their relationship. Thus, there was the August 17 Communiqué in 1982 to deal with this issue. Over the nearly 30 years from 1982 to today, the United States has sold weapons of a defensive nature to Taiwan based on the Taiwan Relations Act. These weapons sales are in fact helpful for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait; they enable Taiwan to improve relations with the mainland while maintaining a defensive capability. So, we have always received commitments from the Americans that these arms sales to Taiwan as well as other forms of military cooperation will continue.

Q5. Washington Post: Can I just ask one last question on the arms sales? This recent case about the Taiwanese general who was caught in an espionage trap selling secrets to China¿do you think that will have any impact on how the U.S. views selling sensitive equipment to Taiwan?

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