Taipei mayor readies to announce presidential bid

In an interview printed in the Japanese newspaper, Ko said he is “preparing” to take part in the January presidential race, but then qualified the statement by adding he “would not necessarily take action.”  (Taipei City government)

TOKYO (CNA) — Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said he is “preparing” to run in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election, but indicated that he has not yet made a final decision, Japan’s Asashi Shimbun reported on May 15.

In an interview printed in the Japanese newspaper, Ko said he is “preparing” to take part in the January presidential race, but then qualified the statement by adding he “would not necessarily take action.”

The Taipei mayor said he would first hold rallies to test the water in Kaohsiung as part of his preparations for the presidential election, but “would wait until the last minute to make a decision,” after the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) have chosen their candidates.

The 59-year-old Ko, a physician-turned independent politician bills himself as representing a third political force in Taiwan, distinct from the KMT-led pan-blue and the DPP-led pan-green camps.

His strategy is to appeal to voters unhappy with the two camps — an indication the newspaper said Ko is planning to throw his hat in the ring.

“Taiwan has undergone three transitions of power, but neither the KMT nor the DPP has made the country better. A third option will present Taiwan with a new path,” Ko was quoted as saying.

He also cited Tokugawa Ieyasu (Jan. 31, 1543 – June 1, 1616), founder of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, as saying “only he who waits until the last minute can win.”

Commenting on China’s efforts to pressure Taiwan into accepting its “one country, two systems” unification formula, Ko said “Taiwan’s people would flee en masse if the formula was enforced.”

The sitting Taipei mayor also criticized President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for her strategy of clinging to the United States and confronting China.

Ko said as mayor he has adopted a strategy of establishing good ties with both the U.S. and China.

Talking to reporters before a meeting with borough chiefs of Taipei’s Tatung District Wednesday, Ko emphasized this approach in terms of Taiwan’s relations with Washington and Beijing.

“Under the leadership of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) Taiwan embraced the path of democracy and there is no turning back,” he noted.

“While China says it understands the lifestyle and system in Taiwan, it is also incumbent on Taiwan to recognize the difficulties faced by Beijing in governing China,” Ko contended.

“The two sides can only co-exist peacefully on the basis of such a mutual understanding.” In contrast, the current strategy adopted by President Tsai has pushed Taiwan into peril, resulting in it being caught between the U.S. and China, he said.

Ko said he believes that Taiwan should make an all-out effort to gain as much international space as possible, and there is no need to waste time on so-called “protecting sovereignty.”

“There is no doubt (that every Taiwanese national will protect Taiwan’s sovereignty), and we should not rashly accuse anyone of selling out Taiwan,” he argued.

Returning to his Tuesday remarks that “Taiwan does not provoke, but she (President Tsai) does,” Ko said as a trained physician his sole concern is the patient’s outcome.

“In terms of cross-strait relations, the overall result in this regard since President Tsai took power has been far from satisfactory,” he opined.

Tsai’s response to a speech delivered by Chinese President Xi

Jinping (習近平) to Taiwan’s people in January escalated tensions between the two sides, he said.

As a result, China sent more military planes and vessels to encircle Taiwan, he said, adding that now the U.S. and France have also sent warships through the Taiwan Strait.

Citing an ancient Chinese military treatise, the Art of War, Ko said war is the worst possible scenario any country can face.

Ko stressed that Taiwan shares values with the U.S. and Japan, and so should adopt friendly policies toward both countries. But he insisted that there is not need to trade barbs with China at the same time.

Asked about China’s desire to swallow Taiwan, Ko said Taiwan’s geographic and pivotal location in the first island chain guarantees its safety, pointing to Taiwan’s location as a lifeline to Japan.

In the event Taiwan is annexed by China, the U.S. will not sit idly by and Japan would be angered, he said, concluding that “Taiwan must learn how to maximize the benefits, whatever the international situation.” Meanwhile, Ko is slated to depart for a visit to Japan May 23.

By Flor Wang, Liang Pei-chi and Yang Ming-chu