Taiwan, US firms sign defence MOU

PRINCETON/TAIPEI • The United States and Taiwan have inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to boost military cooperation between the two sides, as China's communist party kicks off its key congress this week.

The MOU, signed by Taiwan Defence Industry Association head Han Pi-hsiang and US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers on Tuesday, seeks to boost collaboration between Taiwan and the US, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

The document, which was endorsed at the end of the annual US-Taiwan Defence Industry Conference in Princeton, New Jersey, also aims to create an integrated platform for association members to extend exchanges on defence issues with the US, said Mr Han.

The signing coincides with the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) twice-a-decade gathering, where President Xi Jinping, who is also the party chief, vowed never to let Taiwan separate from China.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan as a wayward province to be brought under Beijing's control by force if necessary.

The US is the island's biggest political ally and is obligated under US law to help Taiwan defend itself.

Early next month, US President Donald Trump will be visiting Beijing, his first trip to China, and he is expected to seek some concessions for American businesses, Reuters reported.

Mr Chen Li-kuo, head of the Department of North American Affairs under Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was reported by China Post as saying that he hoped the US would not use Taiwan as a bargaining chip or sacrifice ties with Taipei to strengthen relations with Beijing during the visit.

Mr Chen added that Taiwan is also conveying its hopes to the US side that there will be no surprises in bilateral relations as Washington moves to develop its ties with Beijing.

Taiwan's Foreign Affairs Ministry will be keeping a close watch on the Trump-Xi summit to see whether a new joint communique or a statement will be issued.

It will do everything it can to ensure that Taiwan's interests are not affected, Mr Chen said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Taiwan, US firms sign defence MOU'. Print Edition | Subscribe