Taiwan president tells military graduates being battle-ready keeps the peace

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends the annual Han Kuang military drill in Penghu.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends the annual Han Kuang military drill in Penghu. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Peace can only be achieved if troops are battle-ready, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told new military graduates on Friday (June 30), as the US prepared to sell US$1.42 billion in new arms to the self-ruled island, a move sure to anger Beijing.

"Peace is not a matter of course...," President Tsai said.

"Only by actively preparing for battle can the battle be stopped. Only with our own strength can peace be maintained."

Without referring to China, Ms Tsai said Taiwan remains under"huge military threat".

China deems the island a wayward province under its "one China" policy and has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Ms Tsai has been trying to shore up the island's defences since she took power last year, as Beijing refuses to engage with her government because she leads an independence-leaning ruling party and refuses to acknowledge the 1992 consensus - a tacit agreement between both sides that there is only one China.

The US State Department said it notified Congress of a proposed arms sale on Thursday, the first under the administration of US President Donald Trump.

The arms package includes technical support for early warning radar, high speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components. The US is the sole arms supplier to diplomatically-isolated Taiwan.

President Tsai, who is also commander-in-chief of Taiwan's armed forces, also said that reform of military pensions would take into account "the special nature" of the armed forces.

A planned new pension system for military personnel would provide for "reasonable life security", Ms Tsai said, even as protesters unhappy over legacy benefits being cut were shown on live television protesting outside the graduation ceremony.

This week, parliament approved bills to reduce the government's financial load on pensions for civil servants and teachers, fulfilling one of Ms Tsai's campaign promises and delaying the possibility of a default in payments to retirees by a decade. Reform of military pensions is expected to be the most difficult to negotiate.