Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks at Taiwan Stock Exchange in Taipei, Taiwan. Reuters
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wished China a happy Lunar New Year on Tuesday, but said she will not yield to Chinese pressure and reiterated a call for dialogue to resume with Beijing.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity around the island in recent months, responding to what Beijing calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s most important international backer.
Speaking after a meeting with senior security officials, Tsai said Taiwan was in close contact with “relevant countries” about the situation in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from its huge neighbour.
Chinese military aircraft and warships operating around Taiwan are not conducive to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, she added.
“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan’s consistent position on cross-strait relations is neither to succumb to pressure nor to advance rashly when we get support,” Tsai said.
Taiwan wants “meaningful talks” with China on the basis of equality and mutual respect, as long as Beijing wants to ease the stand-off, she added.
“Cross-strait peace is not a unilateral issue for Taiwan. The key lies in China’s hands. Historical experience has proven that verbal attacks and military threats against Taiwan will not help cross-strait relations.”
Taiwan and China this week both mark the Lunar New Year, traditionally the most important holiday of the year for both, marking the arrival of spring.
“We would also like to wish the people on the other side of the strait a happy new year and hope to jointly promote peace and stability on both sides of the strait,” Tsai said.
There was no immediate response from China, which has rebuffed previous calls from Tsai for dialogue, believing she is a separatist bent on Taiwan’s independence.
In January, China said Taiwan was engaging in a “cheap trick” after Tsai again called for talks.
Tsai has repeatedly said Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name.
In her meeting with Holcomb on Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen directly referenced Beijing's drills and called for like-minded countries to continue supporting Taiwan.
Tsai’s comments follow the conclusion of the twice-a-decade congress of China’s Communist Party at which it upped its long-standing threat to annex the island it considers its own territory by force if necessary.
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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will pledge to strengthen the island’s defences and work more with regional partners on security in a major speech on Saturday, at a time when tensions with its giant neighbour China have risen dramatically.
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