Taiwan will continue to bolster its defences to ensure that nobody can force the island to accept the path China has laid down for Taiwan that offers neither freedom nor democracy, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday (Oct 10).
Claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan has come under growing military and political pressure to accept Beijing’s rule, including repeated Chinese air force missions in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, to international concern.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday vowed to realise “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and did not directly mention the use of force. Still, he got an angry reaction from Taipei, which said only Taiwan’s people can decide their future.
Addressing a National Day rally, Tsai said she hope for an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and reiterated Taiwan will not “act rashly”.
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“But there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure,” she said in the speech outside the presidential office in central Taipei.
“We will continue to bolster our national defence and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” Tsai added.
“This is because the path that China has laid out offers neither a free and democratic way of life for Taiwan, nor sovereignty for our 23 million people.”
China has offered a “one country, two systems” model of autonomy to Taiwan, much like it uses with Hong Kong, but all major Taiwanese parties have rejected that, especially after China’s security crackdown in the former British colony.
Tsai repeated an offer to talk to China on the basis of parity, though there was no immediate response from Beijing to her speech.
Beijing has refused to deal with her, calling her a separatist who refuses to acknowledge Taiwan is part of “one China”, and does not recognise Taiwan’s government.
Xi has made taking Taiwan a key goal of his leadership. On Saturday, he declared in a speech that “the complete reunification of our country will be and can be realised”.
He said he favoured “peaceful reunification” but Xi’s words come after months of increased military threats, including the recent surge in air incursions.
Last year, there were a record 380 sorties. There have already been more than 600 this year.
Taiwan’s air defence identification zone is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace. It includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and includes some of the mainland.
Tsai has made no move to declare formal independence, something Beijing has long warned would be a “red line” that would trigger an invasion.
But she warned what happens to Taiwan would have major regional and global implications.
“Every step we take will influence our world’s future direction, and our world’s future direction will likewise affect the future of Taiwan itself,” she said.