Taipei – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen pledged on Thursday to work with countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific to ensure sustainable prosperity in the region amid China’s military expansion.
Tsai said at an international forum in Taipei that her government will proactively contribute to the creation of a region that is “open, free, inclusive, transparent and equal, and operates under a rules-based order.”
“We oppose any heavy-handed and unilateral aggression actions that jeopardize regional security and solidarity,” Tsai said via video. “Any political attempt to prevent Taiwan from sharing its experience and making contributions does not serve the collective interests of the region.”
Without naming names, Tsai said Taiwan’s democratic system and security continue to face persistent military threats and provocations from “particular sources,” likely referring to China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting unification, by force if necessary.
Tsai was delivering her opening remarks at the fourth annual Yushan Forum in Taipei, at which overseas speakers and guests took part virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. The theme of this year’s event was “forging a resilient future together.”
The forum serves as a platform to promote dialogue and cooperation between Taiwan and the 18 “New Southbound Policy” countries. They are the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, six South Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand.
Apart from praising Taiwan’s successful efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed out in his keynote speech that “protectionism can develop into a toxic populist mix all too often stirred up by those who want to undermine our democracies.”
“At a time when (China) should be building trust and confidence in the region and generally internationally, they’re doing quite the reverse and you get back to the results of the Pew poll,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull was referring to a 14-country survey conducted by the Pew Research Center that indicated that views of China have grown more negative in recent years across many countries, with Australia having the largest increase and Japan having the most unfavorable opinion of China.