TAIPEI (CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Taiwan Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan on Monday (May 23) said he would not support Taiwan independence and that President Tsai Ing-wen has never to his knowledge publicly endorsed Taiwan independence.
Feng was speaking to Kuomintang legislator Huang Chao-shun in his first question session by the parliamentary Foreign and National Defence Committee.
Huang referred to a Pentagon report released ahead of Tsai's inauguration last Friday reiterated that the US would stand by the "one China" policy, which acknowledges that China and Taiwan are part of "one China".
"The US stated very clearly that it does not support Taiwan independence," Huang said. "I must ask the defence minister - do you support Taiwan independence?"
"I would not support Taiwan independence," Feng said.
"Are you committed to not supporting (Taiwan independence)?" Huang asked.
The defence minister replied, "I have never heard Tsai, as chairwoman (of the Democratic Progressive Party) or as president, speak of Taiwan independence."
Later in the day, he moderated his stance when pressed by DPP legislator Kuan Bi-ling.
"If one day ... the people of Taiwan suddenly held a referendum and chose independence, would you support Taiwan independence at such a time?" Kuan asked.
"At such a time, of course I would abide by the will of the people, just as we all should support Chairwoman Tsai, who was elected president," he said.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, on Saturday threatened to cut off regular cross-strait communication unless Taiwan acknowledged the "one China" principle.
While Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, she has not explicitly acknowledged Beijing's interpretation of the cross-strait relationship.
In another session, lawmaker Hsu Chih-rong asked Huang whether a military confrontation would follow if Taiwan formally breaks awat from mainland China.
Feng said that the Chinese Communist Party was "not foolish enough" to invade Taiwan by force. Still, he told committee lawmakers that the Ministry of National Defence would continue to bolster Taiwan's defence capabilities in the face of a mounting threat from mainland China.
"Right now we are ensuring that pre-war intelligence work is done well and we are strengthening our reconnaissance capabilities," he told Huang.
In April, the U.S. Department of Defence reported that Beijing was continuing to upgrade its forces for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait to prevent formal Taiwan independence.