Saturday, October 1

Taiwan businessman offers funds to train civilian marksmen

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TAIPEI — One of Taiwan’s richest men, Robert Tsao, said on Thursday he would provide T$1 billion ($3 million) to two civilian defense training programs, in a private effort to strengthen the island’s defenses amid heightened tension with China.

The founder and former chairman of chip maker United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) said he would donate T$600 million to “jumpstart” a program to train three million “civilian warriors” in three years.

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He will give a further T$400 million to train 300,000 expert marksmen from among “common folks” across Taiwan.

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“I’m 100 percent a Taiwanese citizen,” Tsao, who wore a bulletproof vest, told a news conference where he held up his new Taiwan identity card and said he had renounced his Singapore citizenship.

Last month Tsao pledged to donate T$3 billion to help Taiwan bolster its defenses, after China launched unprecedented military drills around the island democracy in response to a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

China has not ruled out using force to bring the island under its control. Taipei rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.

Asked about Tsao’s plans, cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng thanked him for wanting to protect Taiwan.

“Whether these plans are feasible, and relevant departments will evaluate,” he told reporters.

UMC distanced itself from its founder, saying in a statement, “Mr Tsao retired from UMC more than 10 years ago. He has nothing to do with UMC.” ($1=30.4940 Taiwan dollars) (Reporting by Sarah Wu; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates and Clarence Fernandez)