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Taiwan urged to use its strengths to promote ties with SE Asia

source:2017/8/8 Focus Taiwan

Taipei, Aug. 8 (CNA) Taiwan can make a greater contribution to the Southeast and South Asian region in areas such as agriculture and public health and work with friendly countries to promote its New Southbound Policy, scholars said at a forum in Taipei on Tuesday.

Chen Mu-min (陳牧民), a professor at the Graduate Institute of International Politics and dean of the Office of International Affairs at National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, said Taiwan should use its strength in agriculture and public health to advance its New Southbound Policy.

Taiwan should let more of its friends know that it is willing to work with them, Chen said during a roundtable discussion at the Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue that was organized by the Prospect Foundation.

He also urged the Taiwan government to cooperate more closely with countries such as the United States and Japan in its bid to expand relations with Southeast Asian nations.

Japan, for example, has extensive experience in Southeast Asia and can assist Taiwan in this regard, Chen said.

He said the policy was not meant to compete with China, but rather, to focus on Taiwan's contribution to the region.

Expressing a similar view, Alan Yang (楊昊), executive director of National Chengchi University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies, said the policy is aimed at relocating Taiwan in the Southeast Asian community.

"Hopefully, we can contribute more to the region," Yang said, adding that the policy is people-centered rather than profit-centered.

The roundtable discussion also included Minister without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中), who said that the policy seeks to build institutionalized arrangements with the target countries and promote exchanges in areas such as soft power, the environment, education and culture.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, her administration has been promoting the New Southbound Policy, which seeks to advance ties with Southeast and South Asian countries, Australia, and New Zealand.

Scholars at Tuesday's forum said that although there are potential opportunities for greater exchanges between Taiwan and the Southeast Asia region, there are also some challenges.

For example, the issue of cross-Taiwan Strait relations has had an impact on Taiwan's efforts to advance ties with Southeast Asian countries, said Brian Harding, director for East and Southeast Asia at the Center for American Progress in the U.S.

Stable cross-strait relations would make everything easier, he said, adding that all Southeast Asian countries want "good relations with China."

While China's engagement with Southeast Asian countries is more focused on economic aspects, Taiwan can do more in areas such as public health, Harding said.

The Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue, organized by the Taipei-based Prospect Foundation, brought together scholars and experts from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and the U.S. to discuss geostrategic shifts, maritime cooperation and Taiwan's New Southbound Policy.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who is on a visit to Taiwan, also spoke on cross-strait issues Tuesday at a luncheon that was closed to the media.

According to Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) who attended the luncheon, Cheney expressed support for maintaining the cross-strait status-quo.

(By Elaine Hou)
CNA file photo

CNA file photo