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President calls for US assistance to build subs

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday urged the United States to help Taiwan build diesel-electric submarines to strengthen the island's defense capabilities.

Taiwan's F-16A/B fighter jets are in the process of being upgraded and the country also needs submarines for defense purposes, Ma said at a video conference hosted by a Washington-based think tank, when asked about Taiwan's weapons procurement plans.

“There seems to be a consensus in Taiwan that we should seek foreign technology to help us build (submarines) ourselves,” the president said, adding that he hopes the American government will take that into account.

The one-hour conference, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was attended by several American experts and scholars. It was held on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), a key basis for the development of ties between Taipei and Washington.

In his speech, Ma again put forward his proposed East China Sea peace initiative, which he said is aimed at helping to maintain stability in the region and ease tensions arising from territorial disputes.

The East China Sea peace initiative — which calls for all parties concerned to shelve their differences and explore resources jointly — has led to the signing of a Taiwan-Japan fishery agreement that covers overlapping economic waters of the two countries, Ma said.

Such a peace initiative could also be applied to resolve the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he added.

Ma's speech was followed by introductory remarks by John Hamre, president and CEO of the CSIS and former U.S. deputy secretary of defense.

U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, co-chair of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, and Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. deputy secretary of defense and now chairman of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, also participated in the discussions.

The TRA was enacted on April 10, 1979 to maintain commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the U.S. and Taiwan, after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

The statute pledges to help ensure peace, security and stability in the Western Pacific and to promote the foreign policy of the U.S. It also obliges the U.S. “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive

character.”

The president also said that he would convey a message of sustainable peace and prosperity across the Taiwan Strait if he were to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

“Peace is the cornerstone to prosperity,” Ma said. During his six years as president, he said, he has found “the right way to go.”

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