Admiral (Richard) Chen Yeong-kang
Over the past several decades, extreme climate change has caused severe damage all over the world, and the frequency and scale of natural disasters also seems to have increased. Events such as the 2011 earthquake and resulting disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan have caused severe disasters across the Asia-Pacific region. The increase of nontraditional security issues including terrorism, piracy, and human and drug smuggling has greatly changed the maritime operating environment. Additionally, there remain disputes over islands, territories, and exclusive economic zones, particularly in the Asia-Pacific. These factors endanger regional maritime security, and they are all interconnected.
The Republic of China (ROC) is a maritime nation and highly dependent on trade and the import of resources. Geographically, Taiwan is located at the center of the First Island Chain in the Western Pacific and connects to global sea lines of communication (SLOCs), serving as the pivot, intersection, and connection point of all major SLOCs in the Western Pacific.
A maritime nation needs a navy to extend defense toward the sea and to secure the SLOCs. A navy also provides protection to access resources and plays a key role in implementing defense policies. I believe the ROC Navy is similar to many other great navies in the world, such as those of Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada. Should we be unable to react during an emergency, our people would have no voice in the region, disappointing national expectations. We are currently undergoing a naval renaissance and implementing a “3A Plan,” through which the navy will have an affordable, applicable, and accountable naval force for future maritime challenges.
The ROC is dedicated to continued stability in cross-strait relations, and the de-escalation of regional tensions. It is the best demonstration of Taiwan’s commitment and contribution to maintaining maritime security and stability in the region.
ROC President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the “East China Sea Peace Initiative” in August 2012, which promotes “safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint development.” The ROC Navy has built up capabilities of rapid response in order to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. In 2013, the ROC Navy sent vessels to the South China Sea and Pacific for humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) and search-and-rescue tasks.
In the long run, the international efforts on HA/DR should become the cornerstone on which to build regional maritime cooperation. In particular, the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea should serve as an excellent channel for maritime communications in the region. Trust and cooperation can be expanded through these efforts. We must continue to solidify engagements, cooperation, and collaboration to secure regional stability. Asia-Pacific regional conflict is a zero-sum game. I firmly believe that preventing wars is better than winning the war but losing the peace.