Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen accuses Beijing of causing regional instability
Island will ‘take appropriate actions when needed to guarantee the safety of the country and region’, she says
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Thursday that Beijing’s frequent military activity was causing regional instability and that the island’s forces had been keeping a close eye on what the mainland was up to.
China’s mainland considers self-ruled and democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it back under its control. That position has become increasingly hostile since Tsai, from the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, won presidential elections last year.
Beijing suspects her of pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China. Tsai says she wants peace with the mainland, but that she will defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.
China’s mainland air force has carried out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan in the past year or so, according to a white paper published this week by the island’s defence ministry. The military threat was growing by the day, it said.
Beijing has repeatedly said its drills, which have also taken place in the disputed South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, are routine and not aimed at any third party.
Tsai, speaking to senior military officers in Taipei, said the island wanted peace but could “not have a single day without combat preparedness”.
“In this period of time, the frequent military activities of mainland China in East Asia have already affected safety and stability in the region to a certain extent,” she said.
“Our country has always been a contributor to safety and stability in the region, this is why the national army has to keep an eye on movements of the Chinese military and take appropriate actions when needed to guarantee the safety of the country and region.”
Beijing has warned Taiwan against “using weapons to refuse reunification” and its state media has given high profile to images of Chinese jets flying close to the island.
Tensions rose this month when a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that the mainland would invade Taiwan if any US warships made port visits there.
The island is well equipped with mostly US-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell it more advanced equipment.
The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, to Beijing’s distaste.
Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by an autocratic mainland, and the island’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is about when it criticises Taipei.