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

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

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen attends the annual Han Kuang military drill in Penghu, Taiwan May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

“Peace is not a matter of course...,” 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, 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.

Tsai has been trying to shore up the island’s defenses 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 recognize the “one China” policy.

The U.S. State Department said it notified Congress of a proposed arms sale on Thursday, the first under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. The arms package includes technical support for early warning radar, high speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.

The United States is the sole arms supplier to diplomatically-isolated Taiwan.

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”, 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 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.

Reporting by J.R. Wu