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Remarks by Brigadier General John R. Allen, USMC for Taiwan Kidd-Class Destroyer Sail Away Ceremony

BG0522EC | Date: 2005-11-02

Representative Lee, General Chen, RADM Pu, RADM Hamilton and distinguished guests, it is my great honor to join you today for this historic moment in the US-Taiwan relationship.  But it is not our belongs to the people of Taiwan.  Our long relationship is based upon shared values and common principles.  We are both peace loving peoples, nurturing our respective democracies, dedicated to the rule of law, and fully committed to human rights.  We also recognize that our values and principles are best secured by strength.

While President Bush has made clear that America does not support Taiwan independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, the President has also said yes to Taiwan's requests to buy defensive arms and his approval of the sale of these ships in 2001 indicated a clear long-term investment in the future of Taiwan.   Fundamental considerations and concerns about war and peace inform these positions; changes to the status quo could be a disaster for people on both sides of the Strait, across the region, and America itself.  U.S. policy and U.S. arms sales reinforce our insistence that the Taiwan Strait remain at peace.

As a result, the defense relationship of the United States and Taiwan is a cornerstone of regional stability.  That relationship is intended to assist, where appropriate, Taiwan's self-defense.  It has been an important factor in successfully maintaining the peace and stability of the Strait for more than 50 years.  So long as the security environment of the Strait remains stable, there is the opportunity for real dialogue, and there is the hope of long-term peace.  In that vein, we gather here today to say farewell to these two warships and their crews as they journey home to Taiwan proud emblems of the commitment of the democratic society of Taiwan to defend itself.  And here is strength.

Today, American and Taiwan friends alike can take heart and celebrate the reality of Taiwan's commitment to its own defense and of firm U.S. support for Taiwan.  As these ships take in their lines and get underway, we should remember the real beneficiaries of this success, are the 23 million people of Taiwan who will be defended by the muscle and sinew, the dedication and personal commitment of these magnificent young sailors behind the steel bulkheads of these impressive warships.  Indeed, millions more across East Asia will be safer from the horrors of war because Taiwan - through these superb ships and their crews - will be doing its part to preserve the peace.

This launch occurs at an important time for Taiwan, whose people are engaged in a vital and fundamental debate on how much of the common wealth to commit to defense.  This sort of debate is necessary in a free society; Taiwan will be stronger for it.  As it faces the growing threat of a major PRC military build-up, it is imperative that the people of Taiwan hold their leaders of all political parties accountable for reaching a consensus to increase defense spending, because how Taiwan spends its money is also critical.  It is not appropriate for the United States to tell a democratic Taiwan which budgeting mechanism it should use to provide for this increase, but - as your most staunch partner and loyal friend - we encourage you to do what is necessary to maintain the peace and stability you and your fellow citizens have enjoyed for more than 50 years.

America's commitment to Taiwan is not merely a function of arms sales.  It is a function of common values and an uncompromising opposition to the use of force to alter Taiwan's status.  As Taiwan refines and funds a strategy that reinforces stability, the United States will be ready to provide the assistance necessary to make that strategy work. But at the end of the day, it is Taiwan that must decide its fate.

Above the debate, today's celebration highlights a signal accomplishment that validates Taiwan's strengths:  these ships were readied for sea ahead of schedule and under budget.  This is a testament to the leadership and managerial prowess of RADM Pu of the Taiwan Navy, of the team work of the Naval Sea Systems Command, and of the exceptional work and efforts of Detyens (DET-INS) Shipyard and BAV.  I had the privilege to tour the 1801 and the 1802 earlier this year and while I know you have been challenged by the sheer magnitude of this project, you have triumphed and surpassed everyone's greatest expectations.  General Chen, I congratulate you!  To our Taiwan friends, you should be very proud of this accomplishment and this day.   John Paul Jones, the father of the American Navy, today the most powerful and formidable Navy on the planet, once challenged our young government: "Give me a fast ship for I intend to go in harm's way."  With that in mind, I pray these ships are less ships of war than they are guarantors of peace.  But I also know this, as the former US Navy ships Scott and Callaghan they are fast …and they are deadly.  And I know these crews are fully capable of taking them in harm's way.

In closing, today is a day of celebration … of our shared values and principles. We also celebrate the tangible fruits of commitment.  But most of all we celebrate a hope for lasting peace based on strength, on purpose and on conviction.

Being a Marine, and having served for years at sea, I will close my remarks by offering our traditional naval blessing to Captains Chen and Shen.  We Americans wish you, your officers and the crews of these fine warships fair winds and following seas, and may God speed these ships safely home to the defense of Taiwan.