Part 1 (00'00" - 7'10")
Updated on 2006.02.26 19:40pm.
Thanks to ajen from socialforce forum and his friend Mr. Bob Mouncer for proofreading the transcript.
Host: Taiwan's President Chen appears to be on a collision course with the Chinese government. He is pushing for political reforms opposed by Beijing. And he wants to spend extra billions on Taiwan's defenses. But does he have the support of his people? My guest today is the chairman of the main opposition party, the Kuomintang.
Ma Ying Jeou, welcome to HARDtalk.
Ma: Thank you.
Host: Does China pose a threat to Taiwan?
Host: How great a threat?
Ma: Uh, depends on the type of, uh, situation you are talking about. Obviously they have a, uh, not all, but some of their military installations directed against Taiwan.
Host: They have over seven hundred missiles markedly directly at Taiwan.
Ma: Yes. Not just Taiwan, elsewhere as well.
Host: They have also been conducting military exercises, which according to the Taiwanese government are clearly simulations of attacks on Taiwan.
Ma: Mh-hmm, yes.
Host: You agree with all of this?
Ma: I don't agree. I KNOW it exists.
Host: In that case, why are you, and your party, adamantly opposed to the extra defense spending that President Chen and his team want to make?
Ma: We are, uh, we oppose unreasonable purchases of arms, which might put Taiwan in a tradition of arms race with the Chinese mainland. But we support reasonable purchase to maintain Taipei's adequate defense and to demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves. I have made it several times, quite clear.
Host: What is unreasonable (Ma interrupts) hang on – about spending money on the latest missile defense systems, on the latest submarines that could offer Taiwan some sort of realistic, at least initial, defense against a Chinese attack?
Ma: But the anti-missile, uh, missile plan was vetoed by a referendum the president pushed in March two years ago. You know it's a, he didn't, if he really want it, he shouldn't have put it to a referendum. But it was vetoed. But on the other two items, there are some concerns. One of those, but there are other different opinions. And you have to understand that the original price tag was 18 billion US dollars, and when the news came out, most people, according to the opinion polls, were opposed to it. The defense ministry now reduced the price tag from 18 billion to now, roughly, 11. So that's why our party has decided to come up with our own version of the policy at the end of this month. It's gonna be reasonable and it will maintain Taiwan's adequate defense capabilities.
Host: Joseph Wu(吳昭燮), the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei, he said that your party has blocked the expansion of the defense budget on 40 separate occasions.
Ma: Yes, 45 times, so that they are willing to cut the.. uh..spending from 18 billion to 11. And I think we have saved the country many valuable dollars as a result of our move.
Host: But what you have also done is take up valuable time. We began this interview with you saying, absolutely yes, Taiwan faces a serious threat from China. You don't have time to play with.
Ma: No, actually the arms purchase program was approved by President Bush in April 2001. But the DPP government didn't make any action until 2004. They delayed the process for three years.
Host: So you are not, when you say, yes we blocked the measures, or the proposals for spending the military budgets 45 times, you don't regard that as a delay?
Ma: No, because we want to make sure that all the items we are going to purchase are really suitable for Taiwan’s defense. We should not spend and uh waste any money on arms that will not help us defend ourselves.
Host: What if you end up saying that on the day the Chinese invade?
Ma: Well, if you say anything the government propose should be accepted by the opposition party, that's not democracy. The opposition party has a, the responsibility to make sure that no money is wasted on a reasonable arms purchase.
Host: The Defense Minister Li Jie （李傑） says, and I am quoting, we are racing against time and if we don't do it today, that is, boost the defense expenditure, we will regret it tomorrow. So wouldn't you tell me here and now, that you have now got some sort of consensus with the government on what to spend, how to spend it, and when?
Ma: Yeah I think, uh, I think people in Taiwan think that we should purchase arms on a reasonable basis and we are doing exactly that. What the Defense Minister said is understandable because he is a military man, and he believes that we need the, uh, the subs, the aircrafts, but you are probably also aware that the subs will take us 8 to 15 years to deliver.
Host: But let us be specific then, because there will be a lot of people in the region watching this. What, in your opinion, will be the final deal? What will be the extra defense budget and the extra kit Taiwan ends up with?
Ma: Yes. When we begin to consider arms purchase from the United States, we have to consider four factors. First of all, the cross-strait relations; secondly, our defense needs; thirdly, our financial capability; and number four, the public opinion. And, as you can see that when this was… originally proposed in 2004, the majority of the people didn't think that it's a right budget for our country defense. But public opinion change gradually, when the defense ministry is ready to lower the price tag to a amount which probably will be considered more acceptable than it was. I think this is a normal process in the budgetary discussions within the parliament.
[TAIWAN], [馬英九], [KMT], [ma ying jeou]