Taiwan's president confirms US military presence, expects support in case of war

US military personnel are present on the democratic island, mostly in training and observer roles, experts say.

Taiwan's president confirms US military presence, expects support in case of war

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has confirmed that U.S. military personnel are currently on the democratic island as part of "military exchanges," as she said the country's 23 million residents wouldn't "bow to pressure" in the face of the growing military threat from China.

Speaking in an interview with CNN, Tsai was asked how many U.S. military personnel were in Taiwan, before responding: "Not as many as you'd think."

"We have a wide range of cooperation with the U.S. aiming at increasing our defense capability," she said.

The last U.S. garrison left Taiwan in 1979, when Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing, and Tsai's comments are the first official acknowledgement from a Taiwanese leader of U.S. military ties beyond the sale of arms mandated under the Taiwan Relations Act.

Tsai also said she had "faith" that the United States would step in to help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, and that her government is taking steps to boost its military capabilities and improve its defense capabilities.

"There should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure," Tsai told the station.

Tsai also called on regional democratic partners Japan, South Korea, and Australia, to help support the island.

"When authoritarian regimes demonstrate expansionist tendencies, democratic countries should come together to stand against them. Taiwan is on the front lines," Tsai said.

"Here is this island of 23 million people trying hard every day to protect ourselves and protect our democracy and making sure that our people have the kind of freedom they deserve," Tsai said.

"The way you defend a big piece of land is different from the way you protect a small island, so we have to change the traditional thinking about how a military should be structured," she said.

But she said the outcome of ongoing tensions with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has vowed to annex Taiwan despite never having ruled or controlled the island, would have repercussions for the rest of the world.

"If we fail, then that means people that believe in these values would doubt whether these are values that they [should] be fighting for," she said.

Taiwan's defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed that there is "military cooperation" between his country and the U.S., but not enough to amount to "having troops stationed here."

Asked to elaborate, Chiu said the exchanges were "quite a lot and quite frequent" and had been going on for a long time, on a broad range of topics.

"There is no connection between personnel exchanges and the stationing of troops," Chiu told reporters after Tsai's interview aired.

US comments welcomed

Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou welcomed recent comments from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on United Nations member states to welcome the democratic nation's participation in the work of U.N. agencies.

"Taiwan's spirit of respect for human rights and the rule of law is consistent with U.N. values," Ou said, calling Blinken's statement "of great significance."

"Since the Biden administration took office ... it has continued to show strong support for our participation in international organizations, and concern for the unreasonable threat to Taiwan and free democracies around the world from China," she said.

Su Tze-yun of Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a defense ministry think-tank, said Tsai's comments suggested a good deal of mutual trust between Washington and Taipei, and that Tsai's comments should be taken in the context of Blinken's call for her government's participation at the U.N..

Su said Tsai's reference to China's "expansionism" had its parallels in Europe during the 1930s.

“The way President Tsai described China’s military expansionism sounded very similar to the experience of Europe [during the Third Reich]," Su said. "Hitler also used similar methods of military intimidation and coercion to annex some countries in a gradual manner."

"Then, the German army moved [outwards], testing the international community step by step, chopping away [at other country's territory] to serve its military and political need for expansion, finally leading to a world war," Su said. 

"President Tsai reminded the world's democracies of the dangers of [China's] expansionism."

Chieh Chung, a research fellow at the National Policy Foundation on the democratic island of Taiwan, said any active-duty U.S. military personnel are either present as observers of the island's own military exercises, or as training consultants in special operations.

"We're talking about small numbers of people, who don't stay long, and who don't get involved in active combat tasks," Chieh said. "It's about training, consultancy, and observation, which is a very different role from that of a long-term garrison."

International relations expert Chang Kuo-cheng said it isn't unusual for the U.S. military to offer advice and training to international allies.

"The only real significance is that the U.S. can send its military personnel to Taiwan without China's permission," Chang told RFA. "It is obvious that Taiwan is not a part of China, and China cares about the political significance of that fact."

'Ambitious, expansionist'

Tsai told CCN that she isn't abandoning the possibility of improved relations with Beijing, saying she is willing to hold talks with CCP general secretary Xi Jinping.

Tsai has previously indicated she is willing to enter government-to-government talks with China on an equal footing, an idea that is anathema to the CCP, which insists that Taiwan is a 'region,' not a country.

"We have said again and again that we want to have dialogue with China and this is the best way to avoid misunderstanding, miscalculation, and misjudgment in the management of the cross-strait relations," Tsai said.

But she added: "[They're] more ambitious, more expansionist [than before]. And therefore things that were acceptable to them, may not be acceptable to them now."

Earlier this month, Xi told a conference on the 1911 revolution that toppled the Qing Dynasty and led to the Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen, that he is determined to bring Taiwan under Chinese control.

"The historical task of complete unification of the Motherland must necessarily be realized ... without fail," Xi said, accusing "Taiwan independence forces" of trying to undermine the process.

Taiwan operates as a self-governing state using the 1911 Republic of China name. Recent opinion polls continue to show that its 23 million people have no wish to be forced to "unify" with China under the CCP.

China's Kuomintang (KMT) nationalist government under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek relocated to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists on the mainland.

The island began a transition to democracy following the death of Chiang's son, President Chiang Ching-kuo, in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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China erases memories of popular Tibetan monk who died in prison

Tulku Tenzin Delek died under mysterious circumstances following what supporters called a wrongful conviction.

China erases memories of popular Tibetan monk who died in prison

Chinese authorities are banning public discussion of a popular Tibetan religious teacher six years after his death in a Sichuan prison, removing him from official religious histories and shutting down an online chat group devoted to his memory, Tibetan sources say.

Tulku Tenzin Delek, 65, died under mysterious circumstance on July 12, 2015, 13 years into a 22-year sentence following what rights groups and supporters called a wrongful conviction on a charge of bombing a public square in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu in April 2002.

Widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment, he was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. An assistant, Lobsang Dondrub, was executed almost immediately, prompting an outcry from rights activists who questioned the fairness of the trial.

Monasteries in Nyagchu (in Chinese, Yajiang) county in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture have now been forced by Chinese authorities to remove references to Delek, a well-known religious figure in Kardze, from histories of their establishments, according to a  Tibetan source living in exile.

“Documenting the histories of these monasteries was ordered by the Chinese government, and the Tibetans who compiled these histories then distributed them among the public,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his contacts in the region.

“Many Tibetans who read these books were disappointed to see that nothing was said in them about Tulku Tenzin Delek, and they began to hold discussions about this with each other on social media,” the source said, adding, “The Chinese government then ordered this chat group to shut down.”

Several members of the almost 500-member online group were later summoned for questioning by police, he said.

“Tulku Tenzin Delek played the main role in the revival of Kham Nalanda Thekchen Jangchub Choling monastery, but in the history of this monastery neither his name nor any of his activities connected with it are mentioned,” he said.

Tulku Tenzin Delek’s niece Nyima Lhamo, now living in the U.S. after escaping from Tibet in August 2016, said Delek had become widely popular among Tibetans for promoting their wellbeing and the preservation of Tibet’s language and culture.

“The Chinese government’s attempts to erase all memories of Rinpoche from the minds of Tibetans is a mistake,” Lhamo said, referring to Tulku Tenzin Delek by the honorific Rinpoche.

“The government is rubbing salt on the wounds of Tibetans. But no matter how hard they try, the Tibetans and the international community will always remember Rinpoche’s sacrifice and legacy,” she said.

“These will never fade away.”

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan areas of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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