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June 23, 2017

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Cohen urges Taiwan to beef up self-defense

Former U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen yesterday urged Taiwan to enhance its defense capabilities and warned against taking American assistance for granted in the event of an attack.

"You cannot expect the American people to burden ourselves the way we are, to carry out responsibilities for other countries if there is no corresponding effort being made for self defense," Cohen said.

Cohen told reporters after he had spoken before the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei that Taiwan cannot simply be a consumer of security. "You must be a contributor," he said. People in Taiwan do not seem to take security matters seriously, assuming that the United States will provide protection for them in any event, Cohen cautioned.

The United States has a strong commitment to help the island defend itself in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, Cohen said. On the other hand, he added, Taiwan itself must make some efforts to contribute to the regional collective security in Asia.

Asked to comment on Taiwan's military needs, the former defense secretary stressed it is up to the Taipei government to evaluate and determine what would be required to provide the island with sufficient deterrence.

One such need is the acquisition of submarines.

Tang Yiau-min, minister of national defense, reiterated that need Monday despite the controversial remarks by Therese Shaheen, chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan, that it seems "silly to talk about submarines that won't get in the water for 10 more years."

"She (Shaheen) obviously is entitled (to) and has her opinion in terms of what is of higher priority," Cohen said. "But that is really up to you to decide ultimately what is the highest priority for you and what makes the most sense for you."

In the wake of China's rapid military build-up, Cohen remarked that both Beijing and Taipei should feel secured in their respective defense and deterrence capabilities, though cross-strait issues should be resolved peacefully.

In a speech before the American Chamber of Commerce, Cohen called for better protection of intellectual property rights in Taiwan. He said Taiwan has to open up its agricultural market to comply with the obligations it undertakes as a member of the World Trade Organization.

After serving as the secretary of defense from Jan. 1997 to Jan. 2001 under President Bill Clinton, Cohen is now the CEO and chairman of The Cohen Group, a Washington D.C.-based strategic business-consulting firm. He also chairs the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council.

Cohen arrived here over the weekend. He is scheduled to leave for Tokyo today.

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