TAIPEI (CNA) — Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on March 15 rebutted accusations from a Taiwanese group based in the U.S., which had said it did not welcome the mayor’s planned visit to the United States due to what it characterized as his pro-China and anti-U.S. stance.
In a radio interview, Ko said he was sick of the group’s accusations and described those who claimed that he admired dictators as “heads filled with cement.” “I had been to Yan’an, China. Just because I visited that place, I become a communist?” Ko asked.
Ko will begin his nine-day visit to New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Boston on Saturday.
In a statement released last weekend, the Taiwanese Association of America said Ko’s pro-China and anti-U.S. stance runs counter to the association’s core values and that it decided not to extend any support to Ko nor receive him during his U.S. visit.
The association said its grievances with Ko included Ko expressing admiration for late Chinese leaders Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平).
The association also criticized Ko for saying “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” and took issue with Ko’s recent remarks that “Taiwan’s army couldn’t last more than two days against China” It further slammed the Taipei mayor for calling Taiwan “just a merchandise on a shelf” for U.S. President Donald Trump.
In response, Ko lamented that what he saw in Taiwan were politicians using hatred and confrontation as tools to achieve their political goals, and that the issue of independence or unification will always be manipulated whenever there is an election.
Regarding his claim that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family, Ko explained what he meant was that the two sides should be cordial and friendly toward each other. Taiwan must still beef up its economic power and defense capability while expressing goodwill, Ko said.
He emphasized that he did not want to see tensions rise between the two sides.
He added that it was very difficult to understand how a person’s ideology made him become a member of “Yihetuan.” Yihetuan was a renegade gang which put up an armed struggle between 1899 and 1901 toward the end of the Qing dynasty against Westerners in China.
Its members, which were called the Boxers by Western historians because most of them were martial arts practitioners, would destroy any structures associated with foreigners because of their very strong nationalist sentiments.
As to U.S.-China-Taiwan relations, Ko said it was his personal opinion that Taiwan was a merchandise on Washington’s shelf. He argued that a weak country cannot talk diplomacy, only the powerful can.
Regarding why he chose Atlanta as a part of his itinerary, Ko said he should visit the city because it has been Taipei’s sister city for four decades.
But Ko said Washington D.C. was the most important stop in his U.S. visit, where he is scheduled to give a speech at the U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation and pay a courtesy call to the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.
When asked by the radio commentator if the reception level of his U.S. visit had been downgraded, Ko said the focus of his trip was to make exchanges with other cities, and that he will do what is supposed to be done and will “take it easy.”
By Liang Pei-chi and Emerson Lim