Striking a defiant tone against Beijing, the president of Chinese Taipei has vowed to bolster the self-ruled island’s military capabilities in the face of what she called China’s attempt to “compromise its sovereignty.”
Tsai Ing-wen said her government will not let down its guard against Beijing a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping warned on Saturday against Taipei's "independence separatism.”
China has sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, and under the “One China” policy, almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. Beijing opposes other countries pursuing ties with the self-ruled island and has consistently warned against engagement with Chinese Taipei.
Addressing a National Day rally, Tsai said that "there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure” from Beijing.
“We will continue to bolster our national defense 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 said.
“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,” she added.
Tsai made the remarks as she was overseeing a military exercise involving fighter jets roaring across the skies above the presidential office. Truck-mounted missile launchers were also passing in front of the stage where Tsai sat.
"The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,” she said. “So, I want to remind all my fellow citizens that we do not have the privilege of letting down our guard,” she added.
This came after Xi called on Saturday for “reunification through a peaceful manner” with Chines Taipei. He also reiterated that China will protect its sovereignty and unity.
China has offered a "one country, two systems" model of autonomy to Taipei, much like the system with Hong Kong, but the island has rejected that.
The US, too, recognizes Chinese sovereignty over Taipei but has long courted the island in an apparent attempt to taunt Beijing.
Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden said he and his Chinese counterpart agreed to abide by an agreement on Chinese Taipei. “I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree… we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement,” Biden said on Wednesday.
It wasn’t immediately clear what agreement Biden was referring to, but he appeared to be reiterating the “One China” policy.
Biden’s remarks prompted concerns in Taipei, with the island’s foreign ministry saying it had sought clarification from Washington about the agreement and had been reassured that Washington’s policy toward the island had not changed.