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Tsai claims Taiwan independent in serious escalation with China

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen gestures outside the campaign headquarters in Taipei on January 11, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has raised the ante in her policy of brinksmanship, saying China must accept that Taiwan is already independent.

Tsai won a second term over the weekend with a landslide, but Beijing has said the outcome will not change its policy of annexing Taiwan through its “one country, two systems" framework.

Beijing regards Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary -- especially if it declares independence.

But in her first interview since re-election with the BBC, Tsai claimed that Taiwan is already independent. 

"We don't have a need to declare ourselves an independent state," she said. "We are an independent country already and we call ourselves the Republic of China, Taiwan," Tsai added. 

China has warned against any move by Tsai after her re-election to push the island closer towards secession. 

"Splitting the country is doomed to leave a name that will stink for eternity," China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said this week. 

China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said Beijing would continue to insist on the so-called “'92 Consensus" that acknowledges both the self-governing island and the mainland as part of a single Chinese nation.

“We do not insert ourselves into or critique Taiwan's elections. This round of Taiwan's local elections cannot change the status of Taiwan as a part of China," Ma said.

Ma did not overtly repeat China's declaration to bring Taiwan under its control by force, but said Taiwan's government needs to “think deeply".

In her interview with the BBC, Tsai issued her own warning to China against a military response to Taiwan's secession. 

"Invading Taiwan is something that is going to be very costly for China," said Tsai who has come under criticism for being needlessly antagonistic towards Beijing. 

But, she claimed that she she had resisted pressure from within her own party to be more forceful on the issue of secession.

"There are so many pressures, so much pressure here that we should go further," she said.

Still, what is agitating China most is Tsai's close relationship with the United States which, Beijing says, is sowing discord between the mainland and the island.  

China reacted angrily after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as top diplomats from Britain and Japan congratulated Tsai on her re-election. 

“China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to [the congratulatory messages] and has made solemn representations to the countries concerned,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. 

Last month, Taiwanese officials said they planned to invite US military experts to visit to provide advice on bolstering the island’s defenses.

Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but provides the island with weapons and is its most important arms supplier.

The Trump administration has been stepping up its support for Taiwan, including approving $10 billion in arms sales this year, despite strong Chinese opposition.

While Taiwan’s military is fully armed by the US, most military experts believe the island would only last a few days in a war with China, unless the United States came quickly to its aid.

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