Premier Su Tseng-chang on Thursday extolled Taiwan's remarkable success achieved in times of perhaps unprecedented recent challenges. Not only is the nation a global leader in coronavirus prevention and control, but also has maintained positive economic growth and significantly advanced relations with the U.S. and Europe. At the same time, national self-defense capabilities are being realized, as is the program to domestically produce military aircraft and naval vessels. The premier expressed optimism that Taiwan will continue to grow into a stronger and more beautiful country in the new year.
Premier Su's remarks came at the weekly Cabinet meeting following a briefing on Taiwan's steadfast diplomacy and national self-defense capabilities by the Executive Yuan's Department of Foreign Affairs, National Defense and Justice.
Among 2020's national defense highlights were the maiden flight of the T-5 Brave Eagle advanced jet trainer in June and the start of construction in November of an indigenous submarine. The premier said that these projects were about more than just strengthening Taiwan's air and sea defenses; even more importantly they promote the upgrade and development of the local aerospace and ship-building industries. Domestic development and production of defense weaponry added over NT$130 billion (US$4.4 billion) to the value of national output in 2020, said Premier Su.
Taiwan-U.S. relations saw major advances in 2020, as well, the premier said. In addition to approving a number of military sales to Taiwan, the U.S. also passed a range of favorable legislation, including the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, which became law in March 2020 and will aid Taiwan's participation in the World Trade Organization, and the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2020, signed into law in December and calling for the normalization of Washington's military sales to Taipei.
In the second half of the year, Taiwan welcomed visits from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Under Secretary of State Keith Krach, representing the highest-level U.S. officials to visit Taiwan in four decades. Last November Taiwan and the U.S. held the Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, signing a memorandum of understanding that spans five years and is extendable for another five. Less than a month later, the two sides concluded an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation, the premier said.
Taiwan also made significant strides in relations with the European Union as more EU nations joined the chorus of support for Taiwan. Last year, the Czech Republic sent its largest-ever delegation to Taiwan, headed by the Czech Senate president. In France, Taiwan opened a new representative office in the southern town of Aix-en-Provence, an important center for tourism. The European Parliament also passed six Taiwan-friendly resolutions calling for the two sides to begin bilateral investment negotiations as swiftly as possible. These and other developments are a testament to the steadily growing ties between Taiwan and the EU, Premier Su said.
In the latest report by the U.S.-based nongovernmental organization Freedom House, Taiwan continued to be rated a "free" nation. Last December another human rights organization again named Taiwan the only open country in Asia in a report tracking freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression around the world. Taiwan has achieved the best results in the worst of times, the premier said, and these hard-won accomplishments have come only as a result of the solidarity and unity demonstrated by the people of Taiwan.