TAIWAN – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen expressed hopes on Monday for Taipei and Beijing to seek “long-term peaceful coexistence” and said future relations should be decided by Taiwan’s “democratic procedures”.
Taiwan is less than two weeks from an election, closely watched from Beijing to Washington as it determines the future of the self-ruled island’s relations with an increasingly bellicose China.
Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory to be seized one day.
It has halted high-level communications with Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government since her 2016 election, and ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on the island.
In her last New Year speech before leaving office in May, Tsai expressed hopes to restart communications with Beijing.
“We hope that the two sides (of the Taiwan Strait) will resume healthy and sustainable exchanges as soon as possible,” she said.
“We also hope that the two sides will jointly seek a long-term and stable way of peaceful coexistence under peace, parity, democracy and dialogue.”
But Tsai — whom Beijing hates as she has refused to acknowledge China’s territorial claims — also stood firm on Taiwan’s need to defend its democracy.
“Facing the renewed conflict between democracy, freedom and authoritarianism around the world, Taiwan’s only choice in the future is still to continue to uphold democracy and protect peace.”
Tsai was also asked to comment on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s New Year’s Eve speech, in which he said Taiwan “will surely be reunified” with China.
“Decisions must be made with the common will of the Taiwanese people. We are a democratic country after all,” she told reporters after her speech.
“What kind of relationship we will form with China in the future must be determined by our democratic procedures to make the final decision.”
Xi has previously said China would never rule out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Tsai’s ruling DPP has largely campaigned on a platform of sovereignty separate from China, and their candidate, Vice President Lai Ching-te, has in past described himself as a “pragmatic worker of Taiwan independence”.
Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party’s candidate Hou Yu-ih and Taiwan People’s Party Ko Wen-je have pledged friendlier ties with China, saying Lai’s pro-independence remarks could undermine Taiwan’s security.