Besides stressing on the idea of peace, President Tsai reiterated Taiwan’s priority of strengthening its armed forces, stating that she would continue to pursue her defense policy while following the principle of neither seeking war nor fearing it.
Taiwan’s National day on Saturday, October 10, saw the Taiwanese government somewhat softening its stand towards China, during what has been a tumultuous patch in the relationship between Taipei and Beijing over the last few months.
President Tsai Ing-wen extended an olive branch to Beijing, expressing her willingness to have a “meaningful dialogue” on an equal basis.
Speaking at the National day celebrations, Tsai described the situation in Taiwan Strait as “quite tense,” referring to Taipei’s escalated military tension with Beijing. Tsai assured her commitment to ensuring stability in the Taiwan Strait but emphasized that the responsibility rested with both sides.
“As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve antagonisms and improve cross-strait relations, while parity and dignity are maintained, we are willing to work together to facilitate meaningful dialogue,” Tsai said.
“If Beijing can heed Taiwan’s voice and jointly facilitate reconciliation and peaceful dialogue, regional tension can surely be resolved,” she added.
Tsai also stated that the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, the strained China-India relations and Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, had collectively put democracy and peace in the region under threat.
Reiterating Taiwan’s priority of strengthening its armed forces, Tsai stated that she would continue to pursue her defense policy while following the principle of neither seeking war nor fearing it.
“Our commitment to our sovereignty and democratic values will not change, but we will also maintain strategic flexibility and be responsive to changes,” she said.
China reacted to Taiwan’s National Day celebrations with a warning to Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to resist from going further down the “wrong path” of independence.
“‘Taiwan independence’ is a dead end, while confrontation will lead to nowhere,” said Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson at the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing.
Zhu responded to Tsai’s National Day speech by stating that it reflected “confrontational thinking.”
“These speeches continued the confrontational thinking and hostility, advocated ‘independence’ comments, and clamored to connect with external forces,” Zhu said.
Meanwhile, two Chinese military aircraft reportedly violated Taiwanese airspace on Friday by entering into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence (MND) revealed that two aircraft, the Shaanxi Y-8 transport plane and the Shaanxi Y-9 transport plane, were involved in the alleged incursion over the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea. Taiwanese military responded to the situation by issuing radio warnings as well as mobilizing surveillance and air defense assets.
According to the MND, the alleged incident was the 15th of its kind in which Chinese forces violated the airspace or waters near Taiwan since September 16 when a Y-9 was claimed to be spotted in the area for the first time by the Taiwanese military.
Recently, Taipei alleged that 19 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft, including J-16 multirole strike fighters, crossed into the median line of the Taiwan Strait and intruded into the island’s southwest ADIZ on September 19.
Experts consider that Beijing’s escalated aggression against Taiwan is a consequence of Taipei’s growing closeness with Washington. In the last two months, there have been unprecedented visits by senior United States diplomats to Taiwan.
In August, US Health Secretary Alex Azar traveled to Taipei, the first trip by a top US official to the self-ruled Island in four decades. US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach visited Taiwan in late September to attend a memorial service for late Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui. The two men were the highest-ranking US officials to visit Taiwan since Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to establish ties with Beijing.
On October 7, China issued a war threat against Taiwan after the island’s principal opposition party, the Kuomintang Party (KMT), called for the reestablishment of diplomatic ties with the US. The KMT made an astonishing reversal from its long-held stance of favoring Beijing’s “One-China” policy by proposing two anti-China bills in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.
The proposed legislation stated that in response to any action by the Chinese communist authorities to subvert Taiwan’s democratic existence “Our government ought to try and persuade the United States to lend us help diplomatically, economically, and/or through direct military intervention.”
Both the bills were passed unopposed on October 6, in a rare show of bipartisanship in Taiwan’s electoral politics.
China’s threat of military action against Taiwan came amid US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Asia tour, aimed at garnering support against China while Beijing has started seeing the strengthening of relations between Taipei and Washington as a danger to its territorial claims over Taiwan.
“We must no longer hold any more illusions. The only way forward is for the mainland to fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time. As the secessionist forces’ arrogance continues to swell, the historical turning point is getting closer,” wrote Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times, in an editorial on October 6.
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